I'd like to open up the conversation on retaining copyright vs work-for-hire. I'm no expert on the subject but I have been navigating for a few years, making mistakes and lucking out a few times.
From wiki: According to copyright law in the United States and certain other copyright jurisdictions, if a work is "made for hire", the employer—not the employee—is considered the legal author.
Why is this important? The classic example is the nike swoosh. The designer sold it for 30 bucks and look at how valuable that mark is now. (she got stock options i believe down the road)
As the lines blur between illustration and animation, it’s important for independents to understand the difference. A gif might only take you 1 day to make, but if that becomes a major brand element seen by millions it is worth a lot more to that giant corporation than one day's pay.
For the individual:
1. if you are working for a studio (buck, bns, psyop etc) you are working collaboratively as a team and therefore work-for-hire is acceptable.
2. if you are working independently for an agency or client you should try to retain rights.
Real world example:
I was commissioned to make a bunch of gifs a few years ago. The budget wasn't great but it was fun work. In my agreement I made sure to retain rights and allow the client to only use them digitally. It was a big success for them, and they decided they wanted to print them. In a work-for-hire situation, they would be able to do whatever they want with them. Since I got them to agree to retaining rights: A. I had the right to approve how it was used and maintain quality. and B. The so-so budget just became a handsome one.
These are the two main concerns, making sure they don't ruin your work and determining how much value it brings a company.
I recommend reading the links below as they go into much more detail, but what I do is ask how it will be used, (lets say digital only) and put something like this in my SOW:
[client] acknowledges and agrees that the Deliverables being produced under this Statement of Work shall be owned solely by Contractor and that [client] shall have a limited, non-exclusive, revocable license to use such Deliverables in all Digital media for 1 year and that no further license or ownership rights of any kind in such Deliverables are being granted to [client] hereunder.
This is just one example. Let them know they wont have to remove it from youtube etc after a year, but if it’s prominent on their site or app and adding value to their brand they should renew the license. You could also let them use it in digital media for perpetuity if they give you a hard time. This way if they want to turn it into a billboard or something you can still approve it etc. Remember it’s an art, not a science.
Bigger studios and productions is another beast which I’m still a little confused about, just some research to start thinking about it:
According to the GAG (link below):
"animation work is often done as part of a larger, collaborative work... In these situations, it falls under acceptable criteria for work-for-hire, meaning that the client owns all rights to the work.... The animator generally retains the right to use thge work for self-promotion. Some animators successfully negotiate for the ownership of the rights to original audio and the illustrations, when applicable.”
AICP Digital guidelines:
"For digital projects such as visual effects, animation, design, etc., the advertiser should own the deliverables in finished non-reusable form (with the exception of characters developed by the production company, as addressed below). Where the production company creates new characters, the production company should retain ownership of the characters and license to the advertiser the right to use the characters in the media specified."
"I think the non-reusable there means they own the deliverable, but not the right to use it in other media” - Bran
Reminder: I'm no expert, I'm not a lawyer, and I always recommend talking to one if you are confused. :)