Own-it | Intellectual Property Know-How for Creative Businesses


Who owns the IP – the freelancer or the client?

Published 01.11.08 at 09:30

This situation is complicated and varies with the type of IP right in question. But, in general, copyright will remain with freelancer (even if the work has been sold) as the owner of copyright is the author.

This is the situation unless (i) the author expressly agrees that the commissioner will own the copyright or (ii) it can be implied from the circumstances that it was equitable for the commissioner to own the copyright (e.g. the work was created for a specific, commercial purpose).

Practical steps: Always ensure that you have a written agreement with the commissioner, which states that you retain the IP to your work. The agreement should set out a licence for the commissioner to use your IP in circumstances specified by you (e.g. price, range of uses). By having a clear, written licence you can ensure that the commissioner is not able to exploit your work in areas that you have not agreed to (or been paid for).

Content supplied by Daniel McClean. Photo credit: Tanakawho


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.



  1. My rights in IP using others IP (with their consent)

    I have created fabric designs from the photo gallery published by the National Trust's website. I have visited the head office in Swindon to have my designs approved ( no written approval only verbal) and have spent months agreeing with NT the royalty rates they require and the cost to me to use their initial copyright.
    However the NT are dictating to me who I can sell this collection to.
    The designs I have created are exclusive and are aimed at the top end of the market place but do they have the right to dictate to me who I can sell this collection too?
    What I have created has never been done before; how can I protect myself that now I have shown the NT the possibilities they won't infringe my IP.
    I do not have the finances to consult a specialist IP consultant at present; please help.

    Posted by Diane Baumann on 20.11.11 at 14:39


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