Re: Same content for multiple clients AND COPYRIGHT

Subject: Re: Same content for multiple clients AND COPYRIGHT
From: hedley_finger -at- myob -dot- com -dot- au
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2002 11:14:25 +1100



Ahem!

> > I am a freelance writer and I have written manuals for one client on a
> > specific software program. Another client has asked me to write a
manual on
> > the same software program. My question is about content. How much do
you
> > change/modify the content from one client to another?
>
> [...]
> In the end, everyone was happy. I was happy because I got a chance to
> cover the material the way I wanted to, and the second client was very
> pleased (the first had gone out of business in the interim). As for
> customers, they liked the first version I did, but they REALLY liked the
> second.

I don't know about USA copyright law, but in Australia if you wrote a
manual for a client, in the absence of any contract provisions to the
contrary, the copyright vests in the writer. So I would check your
contract with the first client to ensure that she/he/it does not own the
copyright. If you were in full-time employment (say, similar to a staff
journalist), your employer owns the copyright for certain purposes. For
example, if you write a daily column for a newspaper, the employer owns the
serial rights and can republish in the same newspaper subsequently but not
in another newspaper in the same chain (unless that was understood at the
beginning). But the employer could NOT publish a collection of columns as
a BOOK.

So be very careful about what you are doing. Study those contracts and
consult an intellectual property lawyer for advice. I would suggest that
you go to the first client and explain that you are in a position to
considerably improve the manual and no cost to it/her/him and advise the
second client that you can indeed provide a top-notch manual very cheaply.
It's a win for everybody.

Regards,
Hedley

P.S. Incidentally, most clients are clueless about copyright. So, if
their contracts do not mention ownership of copyright, keep quiet. Then,
if they are non-payers, you can blithely inform that, if they publish the
manual without permission, you will obtain a restraining injunction and sue
them until their eyes water.


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