Who owns the rights to your content? Spill-the-Tea

Spill-the-Tea is a blog series about all things to do with Influencer Marketing. While I’m a Content Creator and Social Media Manager, I try to write these posts from both sides of the story, the creator and the brand they’re representing. On this edition of spill-the-tea, we’re chatting about USAGE RIGHTS.

As an Influencer, do you know who owns the content you create? How about when working with a brand and you’re paid to create the content?

While some Influencers choose to work with agencies who will help guide them through negotiations and contracts, most influencers are solopreneurs and as such, need to be extra careful about the contracts they’re signing! (Read the fine print!)

The bottom line is the Influencer owns their intellectual property (their content). When a brand partners with you, you agree for your content to be used for a specified period of time.

Usage Rights are the rights granted to the client, by the influencer, clearly stating through an Influencer Agreement (contract) both the timeline for the campaign and the “use” the client has for the content created. 

When working with a brand, you negotiate deliverables for a specified timeframe. So a basic contract might be something like:

  • 2 IG stories, 1 in-feed post on IG, 1 FB post, 1 IG reel.
  • Approval by the Brand prior to posting (this isn’t always the case).
  • Over a 0-3 month time frame (typically this is the timeframe).
  • Will be shared by the Brand on their socials during campaign duration.
  • Proposed payment.

With timeframe and deliverables clearly in place, the Influencer negotiates payment and contracts are signed.

Once agreed upon, the content created cannot be used for anything else – for example, that fabulous photo can’t be turned into a Billboard or the reel can’t be used on the brand’s Website or in a TV Ad.

However, if the Brand would like to use the content for further advertisement or a longer duration, fees can be negotiated for various usage rights in the original contract, or the brand can approach the Influencer at a later date. The more a brand wants to distribute (use) the content, the higher the fee to be paid.

From the Brand’s perspective: maintaining usage rights over a longer duration (even at an additional cost) gives them the ability to extend a campaign or use the content in other ways. However, paying for usage rights for content that may never be used, could end up being a waste of money. 

From an Influencers perspective:

  • A brand wanting to distribute your content throughout their marketing exposes you to a wider audience and you may choose to offer some extended usage for exposure. While this is a consideration for smaller influencers working to gain their audience, the fee for a larger Influencer would be higher.
  • Anytime a brand retains usage rights, it could impact your ability to work with a competing brand as exclusivity comes into play. Simply put, if you work with ABC Brand one month, then you may not be able to work with XYZ Brand for a period of time (which is why fees for a longer duration should be negotiated).
  • If a brand pays additional for usage be aware of their ability to “adapt, edit or modify your content.” You may want to retain “final approval rights” so you’re happy with how your content is changed.
  • Be careful about giving up full copyright of your content.
  • If a contract is confusing, ask questions.

Another thing to keep in mind is the photography. Did the Influencer take the photo or, did they hire a photographer for the campaign and if so, who owns the rights to the photograph? In many cases, the photographer retains the right to the photo unless they signed off their usage rights to the Influencer as part of payment.

See…usage rights are important and truly need to be thought through as part of the Influencer Agreement. 

When partnering with content creators, every single negotiation is unique. As Influencer Marketing is continuing to take a much bigger role in marketing, it’s important to know that more and more brands are negotiating usage rights into their contracts. It’s up to the Influencer to ensure that they’re being paid fairly for the content they create and to truly understand how their content is being used.

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