Seven Important Issues to Address in Your Collaboration Agreement

Collaborating with your creative colleagues can be one of the most rewarding parts of running a creative business, and thanks to technology creative collaboration has become easier than ever. However, before you and your potential partners start emailing ideas and drafts back and forth, it is important that you understand that collaborating on projects with others raises unique legal and business concerns that you’ll likely want to address in a collaboration agreement.

Here Are Seven Important Issues to Address in Your Collaboration Agreement

  • Who’s doing what? It’s not uncommon for a collaboration to start off strong in the idea phase but to falter in the execution due to a lack of clarity over who is responsible for completing individual parts of the project. To avoid such misunderstandings, a good collaboration agreement will be as specific as possible about what each collaborator is obligated to do and when it needs to be done.
  • Who owns what? In the absence of an agreement saying otherwise, a collaborative work is considered to be “joint work” under federal copyright law. Each collaborator co-owns the copyright and an equal share in any royalties, and, while each collaborator can license the nonexclusive rights to the work to a third party (provided they properly pay the other collaborators), all collaborators must agree on licensing exclusive rights. Often, this arrangement works totally fine. However, not all collaborations involve an equal division of work. Sometimes, you and your partners may feel it’s more appropriate for one party to receive a greater or lesser share of ownership of a project or greater or lesser control over licensing. A proper collaboration agreement will address who owns what, and who controls licensing to the exclusive rights to the work.
  • Who gets the credit? Much like copyright ownership, credit for the work may or may not deserve to be equally shared. This can be particularly important in the case of film and literary projects. To avoid conflicts down the road, your collaboration agreement should clarify how final credits in the work will read, including, if necessary, their order, size, and prominence.
  • Who’s getting paid? Your collaboration agreement should also always clarify how proceeds from the exploitation of the finished project will be shared, and how expenses associated with the exploitation will be incurred. Sharing of proceeds and expenses is often tied to the allocation of copyright ownership, but, regardless of what method you use, it should be explicitly stated in your agreement.
  • Who’s in control? Decision making can quickly become problematic when there are multiple parties and contentious issues involved. Your collaboration agreement should establish who has the final authority to make important decisions for your project.
  • What if somebody quits? Sometimes a collaboration that looked promising in the beginning just doesn’t work out. Your collaboration agreement should clarify how the parties can terminate the collaboration, and what happens to their rights in project after they leave.
  • What happens in case of an unforeseen accident? Unfortunately, plain bad luck can also sometimes spell the end of a collaboration. Your collaboration agreement should state what happens in the event that death or disability prevents any of the collaborators from completing their portion of the project.

A good collaboration agreement will address these issues, working to every parties’ benefit while also helping to avoid potential acrimony if the collaboration falters. Do you need a collaboration agreement? We’d love to write you one. Not sure if you need a collaboration agreement, or have more questions about them? Contact us and let’s talk about how we can help you and your collaborators get started on the right foot.