Caveat, I’m not a lawyer.
Every songwriter needs a work for hire agreement if they ever hire outside help, period. I often hear songwriters tell me “their friend is playing on the recording, so I don’t really need one.” Or, “I ordered on, insert favorite freelance site here, and it’s obvious that they are just getting paid for the song and didn’t write it.”
Well, first, it’s not that cut and dry. In many jurisdictions, without a work for hire, the musician will own part of your publishing. Second, most publishers or labels will be very hesitant to sign a song without very clear proof of who the songwriters are.
As a songwriter, you probably don’t want to relinquish your rights to the song and U.S. Copyright law even requires that a work for hire relationship is written down. If it’s not written down, then ALL contributors are considered part owners of the copyright.
What is a Work for Hire?
Let’s talk about what a Work for Hire, or Work Made for Hire is. It’s really quite simple, and you can probably guess. It basically states that the contractor (musician, producer, etc.) is being paid for their work and owns no part of the song or composition.