Marketing freelancer claiming intellectual property

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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Marketing freelancer claiming intellectual property

Post by Throwaway0008 »


I’ve just started a new job as a Digital Marketing Manager on a full time permanent employee contract.

Prior to my employment my company has been working with a freelance marketer for the last 5 years. I was told during the interview that the relationship with this freelancer had turned “volatile”, and was given the following examples of why the relationship was no longer working:

1. The freelancer was refusing to do work that they were asked to do
2. The freelancer was putting their creative agency’s handle on social media profiles (for example, in the biography information on instagram it says “photos by @agencyname”
3. The freelancer put their name and agency name on printed marketing materials (for example, “creative direction and photography by (name)”

During the interview I was under the impression that I was being brought in to replace the freelancer, and when I was offered the job I was told the freelancer would be kept on for a few months to maintain momentum across marketing activity and until I had settled in to the role.

Anyway, I started this week and have so far requested access to the company’s social channels, websites, and a range of other accounts used to control the company’s online presence. So far, the freelancer has only assigned me limited control over these channels, and hasn’t assigned access at all in some cases. I am currently working on an audit of current marketing activity and assessing web and social channels, and want to recommend that their name is removed from marketing materials and social channel biography information, since they were being paid to carry out this job.

The freelancer connected with me on LinkedIn this week and I noticed they have their job title as “Marketing Director” for the company.

I have worked in marketing for about 10 years, and in the various roles I’ve had I would never have dreamt of putting my own social media handle on marketing collateral or social materials, or claim to hold copyright over their content.

I am meeting them in person for the first time tomorrow where I will be requesting that full administrative access is granted to our platforms or should be transferred to in-house accounts. I just want to know if there’s any potential objections they can make to me requesting this as I predict there will be.

As for me “replacing” them, I was told on my first day that they’ve recently pulled their socks up and have been working well with the company over the last 5 weeks… since they were told a Digital Marketing Manager had been recruited :oops: As for contracts, I would highly doubt that one has ever been drawn up so I’m afraid I can’t offer any information in that respect.

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Re: Marketing freelancer claiming intellectual property

Post by AndyJ »

Hi and welcome to the forum.

I am struggling to see any copyright issue here. It doesn't sound as if your employer is that concerned about the freelancer if he has been retained for a few more months and they haven't denied him access to the company's social media accounts. I think this something you need to discuss with your line manager to find out the company's position on this.

One of the things which could be relevant here - and obviously you would have no access to it - is what his contract says about intellectual property ownership. In most cases copyright in any material produced by an employee during the course of his or her work automatically becomes the property of the employer (see section 11(2) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988). Something similar will apply to a contract worker provided their relationship with the employer meets certain criteria (things like being on a long contract, benefitting from company perks like gym membership, private health schemes, being included in holiday rosters etc). However it is possible that his contract was not explicit on the subject of copyriight ownership etc in which case it may be that he retains the copyright in any work such as photographs which he produced for the company. The company in turn will have an implied licence to use any such material without further payment to the contractor.

If you can identify a specific copyright issue which is bothering you, please feel free to come back and ask.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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