RE: Article on Contracting vs Employee

Subject: RE: Article on Contracting vs Employee
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: David Knopf <david -at- knopf -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 23:45:47 -0800 (PST)

--- David Knopf wrote:

> We did a whole bunch of work for Company A. We sent invoices to Company A
> for the work we did. Months went by, and Company A didn't pay. Eventually,
> Company A went bankrupt. Under the contract we had with Company A, we had
> retained ownership of the copyright in our work product until Company A paid
> our invoices, which they never did.

Okay - I understand. What you did makes sense. But your situation was rather
unusual. Yes - if a client does not pay you, you own the work. This is rather

However, most clients do pay therefore your situation is not indicative of what
most independent consultants will encounter and therefore may mislead people on
this listserv as to the true nature of copyright law.

> You must imagine me to be much more powerful than I am. I have no ability to
> "corner clients and force them to relinquish rights." And I see no ethical
> problems with protecting your rights as an independent contractor. One
> effective way to do that is to negotiate contracts under which you retain
> copyright until your invoices have been paid. This is hardly an unusual
> business practice, even in our industry. *

My point was that it is dangerous (even unethical) to leverage a client with
copyright law when you are supposed to be working for them. Contract tech
writers are hired guns, not world renown artists who must protect their
timeless art. Given how litigious some people are in this country, companies
get nervous when writers start trying to exercise real or perceived rights.

Furthermore, you're better off letting non-paying clients keep the work and
suing them for breach of contract. A broken contract is a lot easier to prove
than the owner of a copyright.

Andrew Plato
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