What can I do about ownership of how-to guides that I wrote/videotaped?

I have a company that provides online training for a niche industry. I have made how-to videos and detailed writing guides on all aspects of this industry. I have had a “friend” of mine help make the videos (just as an actor or model in the videos) and I have also allowed this person to write up some of the guides. This person now wants ownership of the written guides, and would like to license out there portion to me for a fee. My problem is, these guides we’re my idea and I asked this person to help. This person has signed no agreements to anything. How can I enforce rights to the written work (that will be edited and tailored by myself and others) while still keeping the helper in the loop and happy.

Asked on November 3, 2014 under Business Law, Florida

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If you paid your "friend" for his role or work, then you should own the copyright to the guides, since in that case, they would have been "work for hire," and the employer of a person who pays another to create an original work will own the intellectual property in the absence of an agreement to the contrary.

If there were no agreements about the guides and also you did not hire (pay) your friend to write, etc. them, then it may be that he does own the rights--generally, the creater (writer) of a new work owns the intellectual property unless there was an agreement or unless they were a work for hire. In this case, you should negotiate something--even if it is a sharing of the rights and revenue--and get it in writing now, to eliminate problems later; and since he may in this case have a valid claim to the rights, you want to avoid litigation if possible, since such litigation could be expensive and you are not at all guaranteed to win.


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