A hypothetical case - the freelancer is dissatisfied with their rating and choose to issue a refund. Who retains rights of the work submitted, approved, and paid for, prior to the freelancer issuing a refund.
Upwork doesn't seem to know.
At least their "support" staff has no clear idea - different support representatives would give different answers.
Their Terms also don't specifically list this scenario - 8.6 Intellectual Property Rights: https://www.upwork.com/info/terms/
Section "Ownership of Work Product and Intellectual Property" states:
"Upon Freelancer's receipt of full payment from Client, the Work Product, including without limitation all Intellectual Property Rights in the Work Product, will be the sole and exclusive property of Client, and Client will be deemed to be the author thereof. If Freelancer has any Intellectual Property Rights to the Work Product that are not owned by Client upon Freelancer's receipt of payment from Client, Freelancer hereby automatically irrevocably assigns to Client all right, title and interest worldwide in and to such Intellectual Property Rights. Except as set forth above, Freelancer retains no rights to use, and will not challenge the validity of Client's ownership in, such Intellectual Property Rights. Freelancer hereby waives any moral rights, rights of paternity, integrity, disclosure and withdrawal or inalienable rights under applicable law in and to the Work Product."
If the freelancer issues a refund after the "full payment" does this negate the "full payment" or once a "full payment" has been issued that's it and it doesn't matter what happens afterwards?
It's very worrisome that Upwork has no clear rules about what I believe to be a rather frequent case. I have received refunds from freelancers who were unsatisfied with their rating, but I'd rather use the subpar work they've provided because I have already invested time in it, than spending my precious time again on the same task.
This is not unclear. This is not complicated.
If a contractor issues a full refund for work, it means the contractor was not paid anything for the work.
If the contractor was not paid anything for the work, then the contractor owns the full rights to the work that was done.
This is a matter of simple logic.
Please do not pester Upwork Customer Support with questions about this subject, or (really) with any general questions about the platform. Their primary useful function is to push buttons you don't have access to. They will not be an effective source of information on this topic.
If you have additional questions about this topic, please come here to the Community Forum to discuss.
I'm not sure how the system work here... does the client have to accept the refund, or can it be issued to them without them having to do anything, or even knowing about it until the money shows up?
- Box, Logan's Run (1976)
re: "I'm not sure how the system work here... does the client have to accept the refund, or can it be issued to them without them having to do anything, or even knowing about it until the money shows up?"
A contractor is able to issue a refund to a client without the client doing anything or knowing about it beforehand.
That is how the Upwork interface works.
Now, having said that, I should point out that if a contractor issued a full refund to a client without discussing it, this could very well confuse the client.
And this certainly doesn't guarantee that the client won't use the work.
So discuss these things politely with your client.
But, yes, to answer your basic, question, a contractor could issue a refund and the contractor would own the rights to the work.
It is unfortunately not as simple as that
Someone could do work for 200, see 6months later that it's been published or released or whatever, refund for the hell of it or because it's become commercially valuable, and own it again?
I don't see that working out well
Yeah, that's kind of what I was getting at. Although I agree with Preston in theory, in practice there could be quite a few issues and angry clients. Once money has changed hands it shouldn't be that easy.
- Box, Logan's Run (1976)
It's basic Copyright law, as well.
A creator retains all rights to their work. It is their work from the moment of creation. Unless they sign a release and receive payment, and that is by their choice.
Now, let's just step back a bit and think about this logically...
Can two people physically use intellectual property even though only one of them owns the legal rights to it?
Yes, of course.
I'll make up a hypothetical example.
I hire "Jane Smith" to create a logo for me.
She does, and it's great. I love it. But she took two months longer than she said she would take to deliver it.
So I pay her, but I mark her down in my feedback a bit. She has a 4 star average from my feedback.
I put the logo on my website, and everybody loves it.
2 weeks later Jane's Job Score goes down and she thinks it is because of my score. She incorrectly thinks that issuing a refund will help her, so she issues a full refund for what I paid for her logo.
My feedback is wiped from her Profile Page. (My private feedback - an 8 - is NOT erradicated, and she probably takes a hit for issuing the full refund, but that is beside the point.)
So Jane has been paid nothing for the logo. Officially, if she wants to make a deal about it, she can claim that she owns the logo.
She never contacts me about it, though.
So am I using a logo I don't own the rights to? Maybe. I don't really care at this point. I think Jane's behavior is bizarre.
At some point Jane goes to an attorney and asks if she has the legal rights to the logo. The attorney says "Quite possibly... How much were you paid for it?"
Jane tells him "$40 dollars."
The attorney stares at Jane for a moment and says: "Well, okay... I'm really busy right now. Would you like a Danish? We have some in the break room. You can grab one on your way out."
You are completely right about the situation not being so simple if time has gone by and somebody has already begun using your work.
I think our posts crossed, because the "complexity" you address in your post is alluded to in the hypothetical story about Jane refunding money for a logo delivered weeks prior.
I DO NOT KNOW the exact answer to this, but I will tell you somebody who does not know even more than you or I: Customer Service. So please, nobody ask them about this. You'll just make their heads spin and give some innocent $3.00/hour customer service rep a headache.
In all honestly, if you as a contractor feel the need to issue a refund to something you wrote a couple months ago, and it's already in use, then I'm sure Upwork would prefer that you just work out the details of ownership with the client. How is Upwork generating revenue and focusing on their core competency (don't make fun of the word) if you ask them to get into the middle of a dispute like that?
@Preston H wrote:
1) I think our posts crossed, because the "complexity" you address in your post is alluded to in the hypothetical story about Jane refunding money for a logo delivered weeks prior.
2) I DO NOT KNOW the exact answer to this, but I will tell you somebody who does not know even more than you or I: Customer Service. So please, nobody ask them about this.
1) They did, and I greatly enjoyed yours,it was much funnier than mine.
2) I agree people should not frivolously bother CS with with hypothetical stuff that is potentially complex as hell, unless they do have an actual issue at that time.
However, we all know how complex the site is, and you can not expect every CS rep to know the answer to every possibly conceivable question. A lot of cases like the above there may not even be an answer until the situation happens in earnest, when the legal department may have to wade in.
I intensely dislike seeing CS reps being spoken about in disparaging terms because they do their level best with a constantly changing environment. They're not minions to be made a laughing stock of, they are real human beings, like you, like me. They get all sorts of stuff thrown at them, they get screamed at, sworn at, threatened, get called names, and get discussed like meat in the forums. They deserve better than that.
I do however disagree that we should not ask them questions IF OR WHEN there really is an issue with something like this.
If the rep does not know they will escalate to a team lead or a senior team lead. They can speak to a manager and get an answer eventually.
Petra gets off soap-box.