Contributor Agreement FAQ

We hope contributing to the Kaigai.jp project is a fun and rewarding experience, and we strive to make things as simple and easy as possible for those who wish to contribute. However, we do have to observe some basic business practices in order to function. The most important things about this site are the contributors and the content we receive from them (articles, personal stories, etc). So, we must be clear about the role of contributors, their relationship to the Kaigai.jp project, how their contributions will be used, and the copyright issues involved.

The Contributor Agreement FAQ is meant to answer all the common questions a potential contributor may have about the agreement. Our intention is to be open and forthright with all legal issues so please feel free to contact us to discuss any questions you have.

The contributor agreement is a “Work Made for Hire” (WMFH) agreement. What exactly is that anyway?

Normally when a person creates a written work, they are considered the author and have the right to claim copyright in that work. The WMFH agreement defines an exception to that rule for use when a person creates a work for an employer. Specifically, the WMFH agreement can cover two cases. The first case is an employee who creates a work for their employer as part of their employment. The second case is an independent contractor who is commissioned to create a work for use as part of a collective work. Contributors to this project fall under the second case. In either case, as soon as the work is completed and submitted to the employer, the employer is considered the author of the work and has the right to claim copyright in the work.

To learn more, please refer to the U.S. Copyright Office’s definition of the WMFH agreement on copyright.gov.

A WMFH agreement stipulates that contributors do not retain rights to their work once submitted. Isn’t that unfair to the contributor?

It is up to each potential contributor to decide if they are comfortable with the WMFH agreement. Those who have never worked as a professional writer may be a bit weary of “losing their rights,” but it is actually common practice for rights in works to be transferred to employers. Editors or staff writers for publications routinely do work that becomes their employer’s property. The writer has performed a service in exchange for compensation and in return the employer becomes the sole copyright holder.

The second important point to note is that submitting work under a WMFH agreement in no way takes away the contributor’s right to write about the same topics again. The contributor just can’t take work submitted under the WMFH and then use or license that same work elsewhere.

As an example to illustrate the latter point, consider a working photographer who takes a picture of the White House and sells it to a publisher outright. She loses any rights whatsoever to that picture. However, she can always take another picture of the White House and she would have complete ownership and sole copyright in that new picture.

Shouldn’t contributors be paid more to work under a WMFH?

It is common for works submitted under a WMFH agreement to draw a higher rate than works licensed under more limited terms. However, the Kaigai.jp project is more about making a contribution than making money. Most contributors will only write a few pages or articles and will do so over a period of time. It is very unlikely that any contributors will make a great deal of money for their contributions to Kaigai.jp. We are not trying to build a team of professional writers but rather a community of contributors. For writers who decide to participate, we expect it will be more about sharing a story or promoting cultural exchange than making money on a piece of writing. For writers who decide not to participate, we respect their decision and wish them the best in their endeavors.

I have an existing work that I would like to contribute, will you license my work?

Unfortunately, at this time we can only accept work under the WMFH agreement. The requirements for a WMFH agreement stipulate that works must be created specifically for our project and those works must be created after the WMFH agreement is signed. This disqualifies any pre-existing work. Contributors with existing works might consider creating a new work on the same topic that is specifically created for us.

The language in the agreement seems very strong, can we make some modifications before I sign?

The language in the agreement is somewhat complex because it has to be precise. We have previously modified the agreement in response to contributor concerns. We believe we now have an agreement with a good balance between the language required to protect the investment we’re making (and the future well being of the site) and the needs of our contributors. At this point, we do not have plans to modify the agreement further, but if there are specific concerns that would prevent you from signing on as a contributor, please let us know. We will consider any serious concerns that are brought to our attention.

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