I honestly never see any info about what “work for hire/works made for hire” actually is, especially within the scope of being contracted for it as a freelance artist, especially in circles rife with younger artists. Sooo I decided to write a small thing about it, at least as it applies in the U.S.Copyright goes like this: Author(s) of a work are the original copyright owners from it’s conception. So, you’re an artist and you just finished a piece? That piece inherently belongs to you without any fancy strings or steps required. You made it, you own it, even if the work is commissioned by someone else. You are the author of the work, so it is yours, explicitly. That is your inherent right as the author of the work. Work for hire is a transfer of these inherent rights. That is not a bad thing, it happens all the time! Either you are employed, so any work you make for your employer during the term of your employment is inherently work for hire, or you can be commissioned/contracted specifically to work for hire.
What bothers me is when I see people explicitly telling others to find artists to agree to work for hire contact work, and they do not actually talk about what work for hire is. I won’t go so far to say it is malicious, but I will say that it’s… It’s very, very misleading. If you’re a younger artist, it probably sounds pretty fancy and professional - “I got paid $200.00 to do a work for hire commission! I’m a professional!” I definitely know that, when I was younger, I would’ve been over the moon at that kind of offer.
… But here’s the thing: remember how working for hire is a transfer of rights from the artist to the employer…? You might think, “Well, that’s no big deal!” and, sure, in a lot of cases, it might not be! But you have to consider the following: You, the artist, wanna make prints to sell of what you were just contracted to do, because you’re so proud of it and people may ask for them to buy. You cant.
You cannot use it for merchandising, you cannot make prints of it, and your authorship is not recognized in any legal sense. As far as the law is concerned, your employer made the work. Again, this is perfectly fine - when both parties go in with full, informed knowledge and consent of what is actually happening. And if both parties are going in with this full scope of consent: your budget is either much higher than $200.00 (because they understand that you, the artist, cannot get any future profit from the work), or you’re firm on your quote, which is probably much higher than $200.00.
Copyright law of the United States
Wikipedia Entry on Works Made For Hire
And this is my vague screaming in the general direction of misinformation for the day. 8T