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I have hired freelance workers for my commercial project. They own licenses for the products I want them to use (Adobe software) to create illustrations. An Adobe representative told me that whoever owns the license owns the intellectual property rights to the creations - which in this case would be the freelance workers.

However, the contract that the freelancers agreed to and signed included a clause stating that all work produced by them during this time would become property of my company.

Given this agreement, will I own the work if they own the licenses?

This is for a company based in India.

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You have misunderstood, or the person from Adobe has misinformed you. Under law work done by a fereelancer is initially under copyright by the freelancer, unless there is a valid contract making it a work-made-for-hire (WFH). But even if such a work is not a WFH the copyright may be transferred to the client if a contract provides for such a transfer.

Similar rules apply to all countries that have ratifies the Berne Convention. This includes India. The details of WFH law may differ, but that copyright is initially held by the creator and may be transferred by contract will not. Article 2 paragraph 6 of the Convention says: "This protection shall operate for the benefit of the author and his successors in title."

the contract that the freelancers agreed to and signed included a clause stating that all work produced by them during this time would become property of my company.

Unless there is some provision contrary to the Law of India, such an agreement should be valid and result in the copyrights belonging to the company, even if they are considered to have been briefly held by the freelancers first.

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  • Thank you very much! Does the contract have to include the words 'work for hire' or does something to the effect of "all work done for the company during the period contracted will become property of the company" suffice?
    – rahs
    Apr 13 at 16:16
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    @rahs That depends on the specifics of the law of India, but I doubt that that phrase is required. I would suggest including the word ";copyright" however, otherwise "property" might be ambiguous. Under US law WFH is limited to specific kinds of works, and is not available otherwise, although a copyright transfer is. This is probably unique to US law. Apr 13 at 16:22

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