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Contracts add clarity

What would you do if a freelancer walked out on a project the day before a big client meeting – with everything you needed on their laptop? Worse still, how would you feel when you realised that in fact – they – not you – owned the IP, and that all their work was gone for good?

Within business processes, the way that we create clarity in our business dealings is through our contracts. Yes, there is the important ‘people’ element – the trust and the relationships built up over time – but if those break down, then what you are left with if you’re lucky, is the contract.

Freelancer agreement

The scenario above is a real one – relayed to me recently by a DBA member. The agency lead had had an argument with a freelancer the day before a client meeting. The freelancer walked out – with their laptop that contained a whole week’s work on it – and did not return. The work belonged to the individual because they had not signed an agreement to transfer the IP to the employer.

Individuals own the IP on any work they do unless they sign it away through a contract or agreement – usually in exchange for a wage or fee. Simply paying a freelancer is not enough to transfer their IP to the agency or client. 

By making sure that you have your contracts up to date and configured to best suit the way your business works, you can have greater clarity on how your relationships will work – even if they don’t always stay positive. DBA Members can download a freelancer agreement here. 

Artwork files

Another member contacted me regarding a client who had decided they would like to use a cheaper agency to roll out some of their branding to new areas and the client was asking for the art work files give to the new agency. It so happened that the DBA member had a clause in their contract stating that although the IP of the brand was handed over to the client on payment of their fees, the ‘workings out’ and art work files would remain the property of the agency.

This puts the agency in a strong negotiating position. If the client had said at the start of the relationship that they would want the art work files too, then that would have affected the original fee. Handing them over now will therefore require an additional fee.

How the DBA can help

DBA Members have access to the DBA Legal Helpline, and on joining can have a Legal Document Health Check, because when it comes to contracts a single word can make a difference, as this guidance by Humphries Kirk explains.

Humphries Kirk, the DBA solicitors who helped set up the Association back in the 1980s, produce Legal Updates for our Resources library on a regular basis and have recently written about the importance of including contract termination details in your contracts to secure your right to walk away in certain circumstances. They have also provided guides and templates on issues as wide ranging as Terms & Conditions, freelancer agreements, NDAs, retainer agreements, the list goes on.

As a DBA member this advice is either a click or a call away, so make sure you’re taking full advantage of the legal support your membership provides.

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