Hi there, my names Cory Cox. I'm a head writer and team leader of a team of comic book writers, with our first comic coming out in the summer. Their are six members of our team, four writers and two artists. We have negotiated and agreed on a salary for the artists. Myself and one other writer are putting in more money than the other two writers, in order to pay the artists. I have a few questions.
How do i go about copyrighting our comic?
Is there a way we can divide the ownership of the comic amongst ourselves? Do we need to file as something?
Do the artists still have a claim to ownership even though we're paying them?
Also how do i go about drawing up a contract for the agreement between the artists and ourselves?
Sorry for the long question and thanks.
3 Answers from Attorneys
Cory, you NEED to have an intellectual property attorney in your back pocket, and you NEED to make very, very sure you have certain agreements in place before any work gets done on any future issues. There are a lot of issues here; this is way too much to address in this forum. Feel free to give me a call.
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Generally speaking, absent a written agreement, all writers are co-authors and have equal copy rights in the work and share the royalties three way. Therefore, it is important to create an agreement that would recognize the different level of creative input, investment and risk that each partner has.
To avoid liabilities as much as possible (for example, unintended copyright infringement) any venture involving multiple partners should incorporate itself.
The artists that are hired should execute a work for hire agreement to ensure that rights are vested with those that are commissioning the work and not the artists.
If you intend to make this comic strip a commercial product and potentially one day sell it to a larger publisher or for movie rights etc., then I encourage you to contact a startup attorney familiar with IP who will be able to advise you and draft the necessary documents. Splitting the cost of an attorney three way would substantially reduce the burden on each of you. If this is just for fun and meant as a hobby then a google search should bring up forms.
I represent entrepreneurs and handle intellectual project (IP) so feel free to contact my office at your earliest convenience.
Roman R. Fichman, Esq.
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The arrangement that you describe implicates the Works Made For Hire doctrine of the Copyright Act in various ways. This is a complex part of the statute and is not well understood even by many attorneys. Unless you get it right, you may wind up with adverse results such as your entity owning only the first work and your artists owning the characters. That is probably not what you intend. That is coupled with the fact that multi-person companies almost always need an operating agreement. So, get a lawyer who works with intellectual property and can help.
See also: http://info.corbettlaw.net/lawguru.htm