Microsoft's Creative Contracts

Posted on 4/3/1997 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)


Microsoft's Creative Contracts

April 4, 1997

The American Society of Journalists and Authors reported that Microsoft tries to

get all rights to creative work produced for their products and only reluctantly
allows the creator to retain some rights. The ASJA report reads as follows:

MICROSOFT, whose founder epitomizes entrepreneurship, doesn't make it
easy for freelancers to follow that lead and profit from their own

Contracts Watch has obtained an internal memo just sent from Microsoft
headquarters to local editors at SIDEWALK, its about-to-be-launched
series of city Websites (Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, San Diego and
others). It seems the company has six contracts with different rights
arrangements, ranging from work made for hire to somewhat limited
rights. A page on the contracts' rights clauses explains each and
tells editors how to negotiate with freelancers:

"Pick the right contract simple rule: Start with #1 All Rights and
work up to #6 Time and/or Product Limited... Use #1 for majority of
Sidewalk contributors, especially writers and illustrators, and always
for content that gives Sidewalk a strategic advantage... Use #2 if
contributor wants print rights to their work and we have no interest
in exclusive print rights... Use #4 if contributor insists that MS use
content only in specific product(s), if there is little likelihood
that MS will use content in other MS products and if content has
little syndication value...."

Even the best of the deals gives Microsoft too big an ownership stake
in a work, letting the company use and profit from it forever with no
further compensation to the writer. The contracts differ chiefly in
how much latitude the writer has to enjoy the pleasure of competing
against Mr. Gates in marketing. Astute writer-entrepreneurs will
decline the opportunity.

Freelancers about to write for any Microsoft "product"--also including
and FINANCIAL LIFE--are invited to ask ASJA for further details.

Copyright © 1997 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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