Take the Pledge
Professional Artists League

Why work-for-hire is hurting the creative industry

Before signing any document, first ask yourself this most important QUESTION: Why would you, the contractor, sign a document that the individual or company offering you the contract would NEVER sign themselves?

  • Work-for-hire promotes dishonesty and deceptive business practices.
  • Work-for-hire cheapens contractors, their talents, and the work they produce because it gives buyers carte blanche to change or manipulate the work without consulting the contractor.
  • Work-for-hire subverts the process of creative collaboration.
  • Work-for-hire will not inspire a contractor to produce the best work; therefore, creativity suffers.
  • Work-for-hire guarantees the most talented people will be unavailable to agencies who mandate the clause.

Work-for-hire hurts contractors

So, perhaps you have signed a document without reading the fine print. You decided you could "trust" the agency because they have a good reputation. You should have read the document. If work-for-hire language is anywhere in the document:

  • You lose all right to the work you produce the moment your pen hits paper.
  • You lose all possibility of additional income from the reuse and resale of the work you produce.
  • You can not use the work you produce to market your own business
  • You can not enter work into design contests
  • You receive zero company benefits
  • You probably even cut a deal with the agency and offered your services at a lower price because they gave you a song and dance about "establishing a long-term relationship with a creative vendor," or they promised you, "there will be more work where this came from."

How can such agreements motivate contractors to produce the best work when they know the work they produce doesn't, in the end, belong - even in part - to them? Bottom line is that work-for-hire is bad - very very bad - for contractors.

Work-for-hire hurts clients

Big clients want the best work, right? ... Every client wants the best work.

  • Clients want to know that the time they are purchasing is for the best and brightest to work on "their" project.
  • Work-for-hire practices allow agencies to farm work out and claim ownership of and all credit for work they didn't produce. So what happens the next time the client wants the same fantastic work and the artist isn't available?
  • Clients pay exorbitant amounts of money for work agencies sell but do not produce.
  • Clients WILL eventually learn that the work they paid XYZ agency to produce was actually produced by independent contractor ABC. XYZ agency has hurt itself in the end.

Work-for-hire is an easy way for agencies to control the message by erasing the text.

Work-for-hire hurts employers

If a client is thrilled with the work, what difference does it make to an agency if they allow an artist to whom they have outsourced work claim authorship of the work produced? Agencies should be proud to align themselves with the most talented contractors they can find.

  • Work-for-hire is a tarnish on an agency's reputation.
  • Work-for-hire impedes creativity.
  • Work-for-hire guarantees that a contractor will not put his best effort into any job after the reality of the contract sinks in. Why should a contractor produce his very best work when he will get no credit for it? The incentive has been removed.

Work-for-hire is unnecessary

While we fully understand the need for air-tight contracts and self-preservation in this business, we can not understand how any creative agency that mandates a contractor sign work-for-hire can rationalize what is essentially legalized theft. Not to mention, it's simply hypocritical.

Where is the disconnect? There isn't a snow ball's chance in Hades that Verizon Wireless will award their multimillion dollar interactive campaign to an independent contractor or even a small agency. The only concerns large corporations have are that the agency they hire produces amazing work, on-time, and on-budget ... even if that work is outsourced to an amazingly talented contractor. Agencies should be proud to have the most talented people on their team, regardless of where an individual's desk is located.

Why do agencies outsource work anyway? Is it because they sold a product or service they do not produce? Is it because they simply can not hire one of every type of creative out there? Is it because they need to find a certain level of experience and reliability to manage a project? Is it because they simply want to save money by outsourcing to less expensive contractors? Or, is it because they don't have the tools in-house to get a job done?

All of the above and more, actually.

Experienced contractors are an agency's best friend when the dookie starts flying ... So, Agencies of Design, why insult contractors, and potentially damage a relationship with a client, by using a work-for-hire agreement?


Work-for-hire is not good business. Chapter 3 >>