What is Work for Hire?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 25 January 2020
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Work for hire, also referred to as work made for hire, is a term used to describe a type of contract. When a person signs this type of contract, he agrees to do a particular job for an employer or a client. In return for the work he is hired to do, he receives a monetary sum. The work he created becomes the property of the client or employer.

An example of a work for hire situation is one in which a writer goes to work for a company. He may sign a work for hire contract, agreeing to write 10 essays per week for the employer in return for an hourly or project-based amount of compensation. Each of the 10 essays he creates per week then become the property of the company who hired him. The writer retains none of the rights he would normally have as the author of those essays.

Most often, work for hire contracts are discussed in terms of freelancing. For example, an individual or company may wish to have five works of art completed. Instead of giving the artist credit for creating the artwork in such a case, the client may present a work for hire contract. This contract sets forth the specifications the client has for the artwork and the rights he is to receive.


With a work for hire contract, the client becomes the legal author of the work. He may use it in a number of different ways without asking the creator's permission or providing any type of royalty payments. If the client decides to duplicate and sell the artwork to others, for example, a work for hire contract may allow him to do so without providing the artist with further compensation. Sometimes a client will give the creator of the work credit, but the client still holds the copyright for it. A freelancer who signs this type of contract often gives up the same rights an employee does.

Any type of contract may include terms that require a creator to give up some or all of his rights to his work. A regular contract, however, does not automatically grant the client rights to take credit for the writer’s or artist’s work. It must spell out which rights the client has, and any that are not mentioned are automatically given to the creator of the work. A work for hire contract, on the other hand, gives the client the automatic right to take credit and secure copyrights for the work, without asking permission.


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