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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Spiller

Everything you need to know about Work-for-Hire Agreements

Updated: Dec 31

An assembly of film crew members at a film shoot

What is a work-for-hire agreement?

A work-for-hire agreement is an agreement between two parties, the creator and the company, in which the company is given full ownership of the created work. This means that the creator gives up any rights to the work and cannot sell or license it to anyone else. This type of agreement is common in the music and film industries, where companies often want to own all rights to a work in order to protect their investment.

When is it used?

This type of agreement is typically used when the employer wants to own all of the rights to the work that is being created. This can be especially important for businesses that want to protect their intellectual property. In addition, work-for-hire agreements also help to ensure that the creator of the work is not able to claim any ownership or copyright protections in the future.

What are some key provisions that should be included in the agreement?

Some key provisions that should be included in a work-for-hire agreement are the following: the parties involved in the agreement, the works that are covered by the agreement, the term of the agreement, and compensation. The work-for-hire agreement should also state that the copyright in the works created under the agreement belong to the hiring party.

Advantages and disadvantages of work-for-hire agreements

Work-for-hire agreements have both advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is that the creator of the work assigns all the copyright rights to the person or company who commissioned the work. This gives the commissioner exclusive control over how the work is used and eliminates the need to negotiate rights with the creator. It also allows the commissioner to freely distribute and sell the work without having to share any royalties with the creator.

The main disadvantage of a work-for-hire agreement is that it can give the commissioner too much control. The commissioner can alter or delete parts of the work without consulting the creator, or even prevent the creator from ever releasing their own version of the work. Additionally, if the copyright expires or is sold to a third party, the creator may not be able to continue using their own work without permission from the new owner.

Sample Work for Hire Agreement

This Sample Work-for-Hire Agreement (the "Agreement") is made and entered into as of __________, by and between __________ (“Client”) and __________ (“Contractor”).

1. Contractor shall perform the services described in Exhibit A (the "Services") for Client. Services shall be performed in a professional and workmanlike manner in accordance with all applicable laws.

2. Client shall pay Contractor the total amount set forth in Exhibit A (the "Fee"). The Fee is non-refundable, regardless of whether or not Contractor is able to complete the Services. Payment shall be due upon commencement of the Services.

3. Contractor shall own all right, title and interest in and to any works created by Contractor pursuant to this Agreement (the "Work"). Client hereby irrevocably assigns to Contractor all right, title and interest in and to the Work, including without limitation all copyright rights therein. To the extent that any such rights cannot be assigned, Client hereby grants to Contractor an exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, publicly perform and publicly display the Work.

4. This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between the parties regarding its subject matter, and supersedes any prior agreements or understandings between them. No amendment or modification of this Agreement shall be binding unless executed in writing by both parties.

5. This Agreement shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of __________ applicable to contracts made and performed therein. The parties hereby submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of __________ with respect to any dispute arising out of or relating to this Agreement.


In conclusion, a work-for-hire agreement is an agreement between two parties in which the creator of a work assigns all rights in the work to the other party. This includes the copyright, as well as any other intellectual property rights in the work. There are many reasons why parties might enter into a work-for-hire agreement, and the benefits and risks vary depending on the situation. It is important to carefully review any potential agreement before signing it.

Spiller Law is an advisor to startup businesses, entertainment and media companies, and artists. Feel free to schedule a free consultation.


Spiller Law is a San Francisco business, entertainment, and estate planning law firm. We serve clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and California. Feel free to arrange a free consultation using the Schedule Appointment link on our website. For other questions, feel free to call our offices at 415-991-7298.


The information provided in this article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers are advised to consult with their legal counsel for specific advice.

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