Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog)
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Freelancers Suffer Unintended Consequences of Independent Contractor Law

June 30, 2010

Tags: rights, copyright, work for hire, Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Independent Contractor Law was created to prevent worker exploitation, writes Andrea Shea for WBUR radio, and employers who "get busted classifying incorrectly — say, giving a worker a 1099 form at tax time rather than a W-2 — [will] face hefty fines." But writers and artists in Massachusetts are victims of the "unintended consequences" of this law. Shea quotes artist Kathy Bitetti as advocating against the law because “Most of us are independent contractors and we want to be because once you’re classified as an employee you don’t own any rights to your intellectual property, whether you’re a visual artist, a dancer, an engineer, videogamer.”
The law was designed to protect workers in industries such as construction, says Shea, where companies would hire a carpenter, say, classifying "him or her as an independent contractor to save money on payroll, taxes and benefits. Under the tweaked law, that carpenter must be granted employee status unless he or she performs duties 'outside the usual course of business.'" Classifying someone as an independent contractor now requires jumping through hoops. Freelancers in the arts and in Boston's once-thriving publishing industry are suffering as a result and argue that the law has to change or the creative sector in Massachusetts will suffer and so will the state.