Long and complex story short, we're essentially building a legal & software framework for self-organizing 'ad-hoc' organizations. It seems like some set of our issues could be solved by implementing a publisher model.

Example 1

A, B and C meet and get organized in a service provided by us, and agree to collaborate together for a software project.

A does design work for 50 hours, B codes for 100 hours and C does sales work for 50 hours. A, B and C agree that all work is worth the same. The project ends up netting 20k€ (after our company's commission), yielding 5k€ for A, 10k€ for B, and 5k€ for C.

The main reason why employee-employer relation is out of the question is that we want A,B and C to have full control of their project and not limit their work in any way. For example the project could be completely idiotic, in which case we'd be forced to pay minimum wage while expecting essentially zero value for it.

So far our top solution candidate for this is to treat the company as a publisher, which should be possible since the legal definition of a publisher seems to include software publishers.

According to Wikipedia (sorry)

Publishing includes the stages of the development, acquisition, copy editing, graphic design, production – printing (and its electronic equivalents), and marketing and distribution of newspapers, magazines, books, literary works, musical works, software and other works dealing with information, including the electronic media.

But what about cases where the project is not something that can be seen as mainly dealing with information.

Example 2

Same as in Example 1 but this time the project involves creating something physical (or a service/anything else that clearly does fit in the publisher model).

A does design work for 50h, B knits some mittens for 100h and C arranges some distribution for them, spending 50 hours.

The mittens sell well, and A,B & C get 20k€ to share again with the same distribution.

Again, the project could have been a complete waste of time, so as a company we would have the options of either facing minimum wage & other liabilities or stopping A,B & C from doing their mittens project.

Obviously this example is quite absurd, but it should still hilight the problems that we could face if the projects would be about anything other than software.

Actual question

As this seems pretty far from fitting in the publisher model, is there a suitable way to handle Example 2 in a way similar to Example 1?


Company is not set up yet, but will be located in either Ireland or Northern Ireland. Workers A,B and C would be located in EU area or ideally around the globe.

Any common law answers are highly appreciated, as are any even slightest pointers that could help us in the right way.


I should have probably mentioned that our other candidates are:

  1. Treating having a contract for services between the company and A,B and C. However, if plausible the publisher model would be even better since it should be closer to the 'true nature' of the relationship. Also, according to my limited understanding, there should be less risk of the arrangement being judged as a 'disguised employment', especially if the area got a little more gray. It is still a very viable direction and the one that we're taking if publisher model is not fitting and no better solutions emerge.

  2. Creating some sort of contractual partnership between A,B and C. This is something that we haven't fully researched yet, but so far it seems trickier to arrange than the two other candidates.

As for the obligatory 'you need a lawyer for this' remarks, we really want to do the background work well enough before we start throwing money at them. For that scope, internet advice is just fine.

Also in any case blindly outsourcing the legal work to actual lawyers is not an option, since the legal solutions affect the other parts of the system. And to figure out the solutions, you need a good understanding of not only the law, but the system we're building as well.

  • 1
    Why would you be on the hook for minimum wage? A, B, and C are contractors, not employees. Or, better still, they are hiring your company rather than the other way around (which is why you get a commission). Anyway, you need a lawyer, not advice from the internet.
    – phoog
    Jul 16, 2015 at 18:09
  • @phoog see my edit
    – Seppo420
    Jul 16, 2015 at 19:51
  • 1
    What does your company actually do? I am not wrapping my head around why A,B and C need you at all? Are you providing capital? Selling the goods? Marketing the goods? Or are you just the way they meet? Maybe I missed it, and if so I apologize!....its sort of a long hypothetical. But this is necessary to advising.
    – gracey209
    Sep 2, 2015 at 1:24
  • @gracey209 They may not need our company for that, but they need a company for obvious reasons. But since setting up a new company for each early stage project is a massive overhead, we think that a "bureaucracy interface" is a service we should offer alongside our "self-organizing" platform. Also, implementing the open "credit point system" where people come and go is non-trivial, so if they want the full benefit of our system, not any company will do as a bureaucracy interface, but it has to be quite special purpose.
    – Seppo420
    Sep 3, 2015 at 9:17
  • Could you re-phrase that? Isn't the obvious legal analogy of a publisher for physical things, a manufacturer? Aug 24, 2022 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


A, B & C are, in all cases, paying you for a service you provide.

The risk is that you could be treated as an employee of them! This is, however, extremely unlikely as you are clearly operating a business for providing services multiple principals.

  • You mean an employer? I don't get the obvious reasons why they need a company to come together on a given collaboration. In order to apply a test or analyze whether you e created an employer/employee relationship one would have to know what the gust of your involvement is. I can't understand from your hypo what your role even is??
    – gracey209
    Sep 3, 2015 at 11:44
  • If you are only offering advice, or making connections, you could be a consultant. If you are building out or distributing the product, you could be a manufacturer or a distributor. I'm still just sort of lost as to what your role is.
    – gracey209
    Sep 3, 2015 at 19:40
  • @gracey209 They pay him for a service he provides. How could that possibly make him an employer? Aug 6, 2020 at 4:08

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