NSW Copyright and Copywriting - Attribution as Author Removed

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14 July 2014
Hi There. My younger brother is a copywriter and often works as a contractor or freelancer for various companies.

He recently worked a one week stint for an unnamed company. They paid his time but told him they didn't require his services any further - all fairly normal. He was hired through a recruitment agency and was not provided with a contract for the work. The only thing he signed was a confidentiality agreement.

While he was working there, he wrote three articles that were published on their website. He was correctly attributed as the writer.

After he left, they have changed the writer name on his articles to another person's name (the articles are still the same content as before). If we google search his name with their company name, these articles are even listed on google with his name on them.

The question I have is - is there scope here for him to issue a cease and desist letter (or some other letter of demand) for copyright infringement, since they are misrepresenting his work as someone else's?

As a creative myself, it really bothers me when people try to take advantage of junior creatives, it makes the industry seem callous and harsh.

Any help / advice would be greatly appreciated,


Sarah J

Well-Known Member
16 July 2014
Melbourne, Victoria
Hi Alex,

I understand how frustrating this may be. As a general rule, the person who creates something has ownership of it. Therefore, any publication of that thing must be done with the consent of the person and properly attributed (or waived with the consent of the owner). However, a person can waive their rights to the thing or limit their rights over a thing under contract. Therefore, it is important to read the confidentiality agreement your brother signed and see whether it includes a clause about attribution and ownership.

As a freelancer, it often happens that a independent contractor agreement will include an "ownership" clause which gives the employer/business all rights and ownership of the work produced by the freelancer/contractor during their time under contract. This is usually in exchange for the payment. Once attributed over to the employer/business, they are able to do as they please with the thing, including claim it as their own, remove any attributions to the freelancer/contractor and bring int under the business brand. You would need to negotiate away the clause if you do not wish for this to happen.


Hi Alex,

like Sarah said, it will depend on what is contained in the terms of retainer either between him and the recruitment agency or the agreement he signed with the employer. In many cases freelance writers do not retain copyrights in their works when they are drafted for the benefit of companies who retain them, so it would not surprise me if this were the case.

He should contact the recruitment agency and get further information about the terms upon which he was retained.