Who will own the copyright for photo and video materials if we hire professionals to do this without signing any contracts?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Who will own the copyright for photo and video materials if we hire professionals to do this without signing any contracts?

We are small company orginizing voice competition. We need to hire a photographer and videographer for our Final Round event and sell the pictures and video they will make afterwards. They will be paid by check and receive a 1099 form from us.

Asked on September 4, 2016 under Business Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Generally, when you commission photography or videos (or any creative work) from a professional who is not an employee of yours,  in the absence of a contract or agreement to the contrary, the client/customer (that is, your company) will own the copyright as a "work made for hire." The law gives copyright generally to the one who paid to the have the work created, (It is different if you buy an already-existing work; in that case, copyright generally remains with the artist, unless there is a contract or agreement giving it to the customer.) That said, it is clearly better to have copyright ownership set out in a contract or agreement, to avoid any confusion or disputes later.

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