Freelance writers and photographers own the copyright to their works unless and until they execute an agreement that assigns the copyright to a newspaper, magazine or other publisher. Such agreements customarily specify whether the copyright agreement is for all rights to the work – the entire bundle set out in the Copyright Act of 1976 – or only some of them, the geographic scope of the assignment and the forms in which the publisher may reproduce the work.
In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, a freelancer who sells a story or other work to an individual or company is selling only the first-publication rights. The creator retains all other rights.
Freelance writers, artists and photographers should exercise care in negotiating copyright agreements. They are binding contracts.