Tech

Are you a freelancer? Know your rights and ways to protect your work in India

Intellectual Property can be described as an invention, design, brand, or any other creation with legal rights over an individual or a business. The key idea of intellectual property is the ownership of creation and associating it with important benefits that the owner enjoys. Let’s dig deeper to understand the intellectual property and later dwell on how a Freelancers can leverage it.

The types of intellectual properties

Trademarks – Usually, the trademark registration in India is done a part of good practices in branding exercise by way of labels, logos, marks, text, etc. that differentiate one business with another. 

Copyright – Perhaps, this one is quite important for freelancers as those working in a creative field may try to monetize their creating with copyright registration. It includes songs, background scores, plays, books, web material, or other artistic works. A mere creation, however, does not make anything copyright. To qualify as copyright, for example, an original written work must be published.

Patents – Businesses often patent their new inventions that stop others to legally exploit the innovation for commercial use. This category of intellectual property will mostly contain the new solution, creation, changing any step in the current process, software and product design product. Etc.

Moreover, there is also something called ‘trade secret.’ It is something that businesses keep it to themselves and does not even share with their partners or affiliates. For instance, Coca-Cola has a trade secret that it does not reveal its secret ingredient. But there isn’t much for the freelancers when it comes to trade secrets, although everyone will have their secret recipe of creation.

Do Freelancers Own their Work?

For this to be answered, it depends on whether your job belongs to a person or a company for whom you produced it or to someone who has agreed to pay you?

Fortunately, any job done by you is yours. Nonetheless, a freelancer is generally considered someone who is commissioned to do work and thus deprived of the right of the freelancer to get credit – both in terms of recognition and income. 

A freelancer should always remember that registered or not; all their creations are their copyrights. You can only decide who should / can use it and how it could be recreated unless you sign and conclude a contract that states otherwise, of course.

Freelancers are entitled to license their work to others while retaining the right to use it for their websites, books, projects, etc. You should, however, be aware of the difference when giving everything away (assignment) forever and giving a part for a few days (licensing).

You can also re-create your previous work for another customer without any objection from the first customer because of your copyright. Unless you agree that such work is transferred, you continue to have the copyright of the work and have the right to choose what you want to do later.

Should Freelancers Prefer Having an Agreement?

Whenever a client asked for work, you are likely to just give up a thumb and get your job done without taking the pain to agree with it. In this way, you run a massive risk of being cheated for non-payment, no extra work pay, the content stolen, etc.

It is a necessity and more relevant than you think to sign a written contract with plain terms. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a business service professional for legal drafting services when drawing up the agreement. It can frame the provisions that take your best interest into account. The following are the various clauses to be specified and included in your agreement:

1. Necessary information: Should have the company/team/client’s name and your name as a freelancer along with addresses is the essential details included in each contract.

2. The Job: Work contracts will specify what work you should do, how much it will be done, and how it will use it. The customer and the freelancer’s planned tasks should be listed.

3. Payment schedule: Make sure of the payment dates, invoicing, and clearing your bill. Also, allow exceptions like holidays, etc. by keeping a buffer and not being too stringent about it.

4. Payments: Ensure listing out rewards or work done, including condition whether you as a freelancer needs to be paid on an hourly or a working basis or a project basis? If another aspect has to be taken into account and how it should be specified. To prevent conflicts, extra charges for the additional job must also be addressed.

5. Deadlines: The period and the date by which you complete the job should be clearly stated.

6. Closure: Each contract must contain a clause specifying how and when the agreement is terminated. There would also be a cancelation clause stating times when the deal was terminated.

7. Confidentiality: The contract also contains a clause stating that the work and information you provide to the customer are not disclosed outside to any 3rd party.

8. Dispute Resolution: When a person and a client clash without an arrangement to do in this case, the freelancer usually becomes prey. This is because the client is typically a much stronger party. After all, it is a corporation.

A provision to that effect should then be included in the agreement, outlining what course of action to take in the form of conflict- be it arbitration, negotiation, or a court case. If a conflict is ever emerging, you can advise a lawyer who can better advise you on the legal solution.

Other Considerations

Be safe, smart, and cautious and you will be a successful freelancer.

Apart from the above, a freelancer should always ensure knowing a bit more about the client before taking up work or concluding an agreement. This may provide an insight into their credibility with payments in particular. Best if you can check out directories, websites, read reviews etc. to ensure the client’s reliability.

Many freelancers now also turn to websites from third parties that mediate between the customer and the freelancer. This also offers some certainty about prompt and assured payments. A freelancer should also offer customers with clear and realistic targets to prevent potential problems and to overwork. When you say yes to work, you know that it’s not probable or unpredictable, you should know the implications.

Knowing your rights as an independent freelancer is the first step towards the implementation of the law. Many freelancers do not know their rights. All it takes is an accident to make the life of a freelancer an expensive court adventure. 

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