When companies contract out to vendors for services, it is commonplace for the vendor to provide at least an initial draft of the agreement under which the services are to be performed. In most cases, these agreements are slanted to protect the interests of the vendor. This often creates a problem when the services contracted for are artistic or creative in nature (including software development).

One would naturally assume that when you compensate someone to create a creative result, that you then retain intellectual property ownership of the result. This, a large global retailer found not to be the case.1 This retailer had contracted with a small video production company for decades to record certain meetings and gatherings at the retailer sites. When the company later decided it wanted to “control” the tapes as a means of containing some bad press concerning its management, the video production company, not the retailer was found to be the owner of the tapes.

According to the article, there was no written agreement in place. However, as is often the case, there is a written agreement in place. If that written agreement does not include the appropriate language, it is likely the vendor who owns the intellectual property rights. When contracting for a vendor to provide any creative services, one would be wise to ensure they have protected their intellectual property rights.