In California, a “work made for hire” (WMFH) provision in a contract can convert a contractor to an employee. This post describes the statutory basis for this little-known area of the law.
Before providing details, I will note that the (likely unwanted) ability to convert a contractor to an employee will arise only under narrowly-defined circumstances.
- The independent contractor must be an individual rather than a legal entity (a corporation or limited liability company).
- The relevant contract must expressly specify WMFH treatment for the contractor’s work product.
- The contractual relationship must be governed by California law. (I don’t know whether any other states have similar laws.)
I have written several times about potential undesirable consequences of misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor. It’s time for an update.
In 2012, California Labor Code Section 226.8 took effect. That statute is directed toward willful (i.e., voluntary and knowing) misclassification of employees as independent contractors. Consequences can include the following. (more…)
In Independent Contractors: How to Assign Copyrights, I provided sample language for an independent contractor’s assignment of copyrights to a client. This post explains why the present assignment aspect of that language is critical.
Here (with emphasis added) is the relevant portion of the pivotal sentence:
Contractor hereby irrevocably assigns, transfers and conveys to Client all of its right, title and interest in and to the Deliverables, including complete, unconditional and worldwide ownership of all intellectual property rights in any draft or final version of the Deliverables.
I am especially pleased to welcome Rita Risser as a guest writer – not just because her post about sexual harassment is this blog’s first guest post, but because I have had the pleasure of knowing, and staying in touch with, Rita ever since we met at Boalt Hall.
As CEO of a small company, you may imagine that the recent resignation of HP’s CEO has no relevance to you and your organization. Think again.
Whenever employees or contractors are let go, they are more likely to bring claims for harassment, whistle-blowing and more. The worse the economy, the less likely they are to find other jobs and the more incentive they have to pursue alternative sources of income through lawsuits.
The company in question provides contract personnel for IT projects. Here is the agreement that candidates have to sign to be proposed for a client’s project [emphasis added]: (more…)
In a recently-decided case (JustMed v. Byce), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided that a software developer was an employee, rather than an independent contractor, even though the parties had completed almost no employment-related paperwork.
Byce took over development of JustMed’s software from an employee who had moved out of state. Byce’s compensation – the same as his predecessor’s – was 15,000 shares of JustMed stock (valued at $0.50 per share) per month.
After reading If You Don’t Set the Terms of a Copyright License, a Court Will, a (non-lawyer) friend wrote: “I work with subcontractors on a regular basis in the creative area (photographers, graphic artists, website designers, etc.).? Do you know where I can find a sample [copyright assignment provision]?”
Almost a year ago, I wrote about why independent contractors (as contrasted to employees) own the copyrights in works that they create. As a result, a prudent customer will ensure that the contractor assigns its copyrights to the customer (Why “Work Made for Hire” is a Term Made for Confusion). This post discusses the implied copyright license that is granted in the absence of an assignment.
If there is no assignment provision, a court will determine that there is an implied license under the copyright. The rationale is that it would be unfair to deprive the customer of all rights in a work for which the customer has paid. The issue, then, will be the terms of the implied license.
The one certain characteristic of the implied license is that it will be non-exclusive rather than exclusive. The reason: Under 17 U.S.C. Section 101, an exclusive license is considered a transfer of copyright ownership. And under 17 U.S.C. Section 204(a), a transfer of copyright ownership must be in writing and must be signed.
Four months ago, I wrote about a Wall Street Journal report. According to that report, the Internal Revenue Service planned to audit 6,000 randomly-selected U.S. companies to determine the extent to which companies misclassify employees as independent contractors. (See The “Independent Contractor” Trap Becomes More Dangerous.) Today The New York Times reported that both federal and state officials are cracking down on misclassification (U.S. Cracks Down on Contractors as a Tax Dodge). The incentive: To reduce record budget deficits.
By misclassifying personnel, companies avoid paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes. The article goes on to say that, on average, misclassified personnel do not report 30% of their income. The 2010 federal budget projects that the crackdown will net at least $7 billion over ten years.
Implication of contractors as a tax dodge for companies of all sizes:
If you have been lax in classifying workers, now would be a good time to start doing things correctly. Avoiding the “Independent Contractor” Trap may help you determine how to improve your classification procedures.
Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510 547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.
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This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.