Re: Work-for-hire question?

Subject: Re: Work-for-hire question?
From: "Robert Plamondon" <robert -at- plamondon -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 20 Jul 2003 06:39:37 -0700

>We have a large customer who is paying us to do
>some major customization of our software for them, prepare documentation,
>training, implementation, etc. This is still OUR software that we license
>the customer... One of the customer's reviewers, looking at a draft, took
>issue with our copyright notice and wondered if the copyright ought not
>belong to the customer.

There are several potential issues here that may need to be addressed:

1. The reviewer may not like having the name of another company displayed
prominently on the manual. Although this happens all the time (and, in fact,
it's typical for books to have a different name on the copyright notice than
that of the publisher), the reviewer may not know this. The customer may
also want to pass off your work as their own. These are positioning issues,
outside of Tech Pubs' jurisdiction, and should be referred to someone else
(presumably Marketing) if they represent the true desires of the customer
and not the questions of a lone reviewer.

2. The reviewer may be concerned that they are legally obligated not to fix
errors in the document, not to reformat it to corporate standards, etc. etc.
This is a contract issue; refer to the people whose job it is to worry about
such things.

3. At the same time, the customer should not be given carte blanche, since
it would be bad if someone producing a compatible knock-off product had
access to a manual they could use without restrictions. In short, the
customer should not be given unlimited rights to the manual. Whether they
should be allowed to make the manual available to the public on their Web
site is an interesting question. A good manual works as an extended ad for
your product, but it enables vendors of knock-off products to not bother
with a manual, but to tell their customer to download yours. Again, Tech
Pubs generally doesn't make such decisions, but should refer the issue to
the appropriate decision-maker.

-- Robert

Robert Plamondon
President, High-Tech Technical Writing
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com
(541) 453-5841
"We're Looking for a Few Good Clients"


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