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Imagine this scenario: I go on Fiverr and hire an artist to create a piece of artwork for me. Everything went well, the artist created the piece, I'm happy with it and I paid for it.

Now, who owns the rights to the artwork? Given what little I know about the legal aspects of such a transaction, I thought it would be seen like regular paid work, as in everything you create at work is property of the company employing you to work there. Does it work like that on platforms like Fiverr, too? Or would I need additional paper work to make sure I own the output of that work?

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The buyer owns the copyright by default ("unless clearly stated otherwise"), but only because the Fiverr Terms of Service say so

(except for work created through their Logo Maker, which has different rules)

I thought it would be seen like regular paid work, as in everything you create at work is property of the company employing you to work there.

This isn't quite right. As I explain in more detail here, because this is a contract job and not regular employment, absent a written and signed agreement stating otherwise, the work would be owned by the contractor.

However, their Terms of Service state (emphasis added):

When purchasing a Gig on Fiverr, unless clearly stated otherwise on the Seller's Gig page/description, when the work is delivered, and subject to payment, the Buyer is granted all intellectual property rights, including but not limited to, copyrights for the work delivered from the Seller, and the Seller waives any and all moral rights therein. The delivered work shall be considered work-for-hire under the U.S. Copyright Act. In the event the delivered work does not meet the requirements of work-for-hire or when US Copyright Act does not apply, the Seller expressly agrees to assign to Buyer the copyright in the delivered work. All transfer and assignment of intellectual property to Buyer shall be subject to full payment for the Gig and the delivery may not be used if payment is cancelled for any reason. For removal of doubt, in custom created work (such as art work, design work, report generation etc.), the delivered work shall be the exclusive property of Buyer, and Seller assigns all rights, title and interest in the delivered work.

This written contract accepted by both parties likely qualifies as "the parties expressly agree[ing] in a written instrument signed by them that the work shall be considered a work made for hire," which is the requirement to transfer copyright ownership to the buyer.

If a Fiverr-like platform did not have such a clause in their Terms of Service, the artist would own the copyright by default, absent a written and signed agreement stating otherwise.

Note: this answer describes how this works under United States law. The default ownership of contracted works may differ in other countries, though I expect that copyright-assignment clause would be sufficient in most countries.

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  • in Germany Urheberschaft is not transferable and the right to be noted as author is not voidable, but companies or buyers contracting usually get all usage rights – Trish Sep 15 '20 at 7:51
  • @Trish the right to be noted as an author does not necessarily grant usage rights. And while the right to be noted as an author cannot be transferred, this in itself does not mean that all other rights cannot be transferred (including the right to deny all request to allow copying). – grovkin Sep 16 '20 at 14:27
  • @grovkin Urheberschaft only implies "I made this". Everything else is transferable usage rights. – Trish Sep 16 '20 at 16:37
  • @Trish there is an intermediate right which is not covered by your comment. The right to-allow-others-a-usage-right is itself not as broad as ownership rights. The right to-be-the-exclusive-authority-which-can-grant-others-usage-rights is neither a usage right nor a right to be noted. And your statement, if true, doesn't preclude an author from transferring this exclusive ownership right (which is separate from the right to be noted). This right to be the exclusive authority which can grant all other rights is the copyright. – grovkin Sep 16 '20 at 19:31
  • @grovkin ok, let's separate that for you: in Germany, making some piece of art etc gives you 2 things: Urheberpersönlicheitsrecht (Autorenschaft) & Verwertungsrechte. The first is a bundle of exactly 2 things and can never be transferred but through inheritance: the right to be named as an author (non inheritable) and the moral right to not have your work be perverted (inhertable). All the Verwertunsrechte can be sold and traded away, they are the whole set of usage rights, including the right to license or make copies and the right to make derivates. – Trish Sep 16 '20 at 20:32

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