When You Pay for Images for Your Website

You understand you need to own, have a license to use, or permission to display the images on your website. Otherwise, you could be infringing on Website Copyright Laws. If you took the pictures or created the graphics yourself, and you are a sole proprietor, no problem. If you have a written license agreement to use the images on your site, no problem. If you have written permission from the owner to use the photos on your home page, again no problem. However, what do you do in the case where your employee or an independent contractor takes photos you intend to place with a number of your blog entries? This is where it gets sticky. Not necessarily with your full time employees – usually the ones working full time, they get benefits, you take taxes out of their paychecks and so forth. Generally, these employees are creating works for hire on your behalf and even though they created the Copyrighted work, they are not the owners. You and your company are. However, there is a problem. Courts are always trying to define who is and who isn’t an employee, so long story short they can sometimes fall into the category of independent contractor, and an independent contractor’s work is not always a work for hire, even if you say so in writing. Let me repeat. Sometimes images created by independent contractors for you, even if you have a written agreement stating they are for hire, are still not works for hire. Period. Don’t ask, but it has to do with an independent contractor’s work having to fall within one of the 9 exceptions listed in Section 101 of the Copyright Act, plus being subject to a written agreement saying it is a work for hire, else you don’t own it. At best you have an implied license to use. And the courts are always arguing over what does and doesn’t fit within the 9 exceptions.

So, what do you do? Make all independent contractors, employee or otherwise, sign agreements assigning all of their rights, titles, interests, and ownership to the Copyrighted work they touch to you or your business before they begin performing any work. Be sure to state what they are being paid in consideration for this assignment.