If a company takes my design work and uses it, does it still have topay for the product provided even if I’m not hired?

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If a company takes my design work and uses it, does it still have topay for the product provided even if I’m not hired?

I did some work for an investment firm while waiting for a business deal to go through and be hired. The deal fell through but they still took my work and used it. Are there grounds to get them to pay me?

Asked on December 4, 2011 under Business Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the circumstances:

1) If you were paid for the work, whether as an employee or an independent contractor, then most likely no...in that event, it was a work for hire done for them, and they own the rights.

2) If the work was done explicitly as part of the negotiations for the business deal--e.g. to show them what  you were capable of; or as something they'd have if they hired you--then they probably cannot use it without your permission after the deal fell through.

The specific facts are critical; in particular, it's important to review the correspondence, agreements, etc. between you and the company, particularly as pertains to the design work. You should bring all correspondence, etc. to an attorney who can review it, and the circumstances, in detail and advise as to your rights.


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