Protecting Your Interests: Understanding the Work-For-Hire Agreement

February 18, 2021 | Written By Peter Jay Speroni

agreement signed

Scene:  You are an aspiring musician, or even a well-known one.  You enter a studio for a songwriting and recording session with a few people.  These people may include some friends (to watch you record), a producer to help you lay down the track, and an engineer to fine tune the sound quality in order to release the song.

The easiest way to ensure that you retain all of your copyrights for the songs you’re recording is to have those you work with sign a Work-For-Hire Agreement.  Traditionally, engineers have been classified as work-for-hires in this situation; however, within the last decade, the lines between engineer and producer have become increasingly blurred.  Because of the hybrid roles engineers and producers often play, it is important to lay out your rights with your recording team beforehand. 

Under Copyright Law, a Work-For-Hire agreement establishes that you have paid that engineer, that songwriter, or that producer for their time and effort in recording that song. That payment voids their future claims to authorship of your song.   For example, if you are an artist or songwriter but you don’t know your way around Pro-Tools, Fruity Loops or other studio programs, you might want to consider paying your team upfront.  This payment for their services, when combined with an express Work-For-Hire Agreement can protect your authorship in your song moving forward.  The payment and agreement, whether it be $5 or $5000+, voids that person’s claims to copyright ownership down the road should they ever try to make the claim they own your song.  A Work-For-Hire Agreement can save your rights and show a court of law that you have paid for that person’s efforts and therefore, they are not entitled to a percentage of the proceeds moving forward.

If you don’t take the time to ensure proper legal safeguards are in place, such as preparing a work-for-hire-agreement, an engineer who has helped with the recording/editing/mastering process of your song in the studio can legally make a claim to your ownership in the song. By having an experienced copyright attorney draft your work-for-hire agreements, you effectively protect your intellectual property rights and ensure that when you create revenue from your songs, that the money goes in your pocket. 

A simple payment, along with a detailed work-for-hire agreement signed by all parties can save you the nightmare of costly litigation down the road and can help you retain all of the intellectual property rights you are deserving of. 


Peter Jay Speroni is counsel with the Parlatore Law Group and practices in the fields of copyrights, copyright infringement litigation, and trademarks. Mr. Speroni brings over fifteen years of music industry and entertainment experience to the firm including artist development, music publishing, media promotions and music consulting. His specialty is intellectual property licensing, including, complex music publishing, production, film and soundtracks, record label and artist management contracts.  His passion and creativity help him to provide his clients with valuable and robust strategies, whatever their entertainment-based business needs. For more about Peter, click here

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