Have you ever hesitated to share a document with an editor, designer, or other team member because it contained confidential or proprietary information?
When you’re working on a project that involves confidential or sensitive information, it’s important to take steps to protect that data. One way to do this is by using secure file-sharing tools and protocols.
Another important step is making sure that everyone who needs access to the information signs a nondisclosure agreement (NDA).
But does that include people like designers, editors, or other creatives who are merely touching up the final look and presentation of the document? Or should only the people working more directly with the information—engineers, executives, and writers—sign an NDA?
The answer is complicated and depends on your circumstances.
Keep reading to learn why NDAs are important, when you need them, and when it is (and isn’t) appropriate for an editor to sign them.
NDAs are an essential part of doing business without getting into legal trouble—but what are they, and what exactly do they do?
NDAs serve as a legal agreement between parties that outlines what type of information is confidential or proprietary and what actions can be taken if that confidentiality is compromised.
At the same time, they protect organizations from liability by ensuring that employees who have access to sensitive information take steps to secure it and prevent unauthorized access or sharing.
Essentially, NDAs serve two purposes:
- They define what counts as confidential or sensitive information.
- They limit what employees and partners are allowed to do with that information.
In general, you should consider using an NDA any time you are sharing sensitive or proprietary data with someone—even if you’ve already used proper secure file-sharing protocols or legally protecting strategies like patents and copyright.
Each project and file will have its own set of risks, so it’s important to consider what type of information you are dealing with before deciding whether or not an NDA is required.
The following are a few types of projects or files that may require NDAs.
If your organization or your client’s organization has developed proprietary technology or software that is critical to the success of the business, you will likely want to use an NDA to protect it from unauthorized use.
Such software or technology includes things like:
- A unique process for manufacturing a product
- A secure data storage method or algorithm
- Blueprints or operating instructions for company-developed machinery
Any type of personally identifiable information (PII), such as customer data or financial information, may require NDAs as part of the secure file-sharing process. This includes data like:
- Customer payment records
- Personal health information (PHI)
- Social Security numbers or other secure identifiers
Your company’s data and information need to be protected just as much as your customers’. Require an NDA to look at, work with, and discuss information about employees like:
- Payroll and finances
- Human resources records
- Health information
- Personal information
The same goes for company information like:
- Research data
- Internal communications
- Details about company operations, especially those that may be used by a competitor
Finally, anything you may consider to be intellectual property is safest when shared with those who have signed an NDA. This includes creative works like:
It’s also important to consider any other kind of confidential information that may be unique to your organization or industry when deciding whether to secure it with an NDA.
And if you ever need help copy editing secure files or sensitive documents, it always helps to deal with professionals who already have experience handling proprietary data. The team at Super Copy Editors has reviewed a wide variety of technical and sensitive business documents while staying in compliance with company policies. Learn more about our business proofreading services.
Now to address the question of the hour: Should copy editors be required to sign NDAs?
In general, this depends on the specific situation. However, in most cases where the copy editor has access to sensitive or proprietary data, the answer is yes—if it seems worthwhile.
Depending on your company’s secure file-sharing policies and the nature of your projects, it may not always be necessary to secure every piece of information with an NDA.
Many marketing and business materials get by just fine without NDAs, and any reputable copy editor will, by default, refrain from exposing, stealing, or otherwise nefariously using your data.
There are even cases where it’s frowned upon or completely unnecessary to use an NDA. For example, in the literary publishing industry, works are protected by default, and many editors will decline to sign an NDA or work with an author who requests one. This is because, due to unique laws, a writer’s work is automatically considered copyrighted.
But the business world is different from the literary world, and business documents play by different rules. So if you have documents that involve trade secrets, confidential information, proprietary processes, or other forms of sensitive and legally protected information, give your copy editor an NDA.
If you’re just working with more run-of-the-mill documents like brochures, website copy, or press releases that don’t reveal any information that isn’t already public, you may not want to bother with an NDA.
If you’re working with freelance copy editors, you may be skittish about sharing sensitive files with them. How do you know they’re not going to run off with your trade secrets and give them to a competitor?
While we can’t vouch for every single freelance copy editor out there, we can assure you they’re bound by the same laws and ethical standards as in-house staff.
So when you’re working with freelancers, stick to the same rules you would use when working with in-house copy editors. And if you really want that extra level of assurance, go ahead and draft an NDA even when you wouldn’t normally—there’s no harm in it.
Let’s say you’ve decided that you want your copy editor to sign an NDA before you share secure files with them. What do you do next?
Here are the steps you should take to create and execute a solid NDA agreement:
While you can create your own NDA from a template or with independent research, using a lawyer is a far easier and faster method that can save you from complicated miscommunications further down the road.
Since NDAs are relatively common and uncomplicated, this doesn’t have to be a long, drawn-out process—simply find a lawyer and have a single meeting going over what you want to be protected in the NDA, and they can create a document for you.
Before you show a copy editor any confidential documents, give them the NDA and clearly explain:
- What it’s for
- Why they’re signing it
- What they’re expected to do to uphold their part of the agreement (for example, not disclose company secrets to competitors)
This ensures the editor understands what they’re signing and why it’s important for your peace of mind, and it protects both parties from potential legal risks.
Once you’ve finalized and presented your NDA and have received a signature and compliance from your copy editor, you can start work on the documents.
Going through secure file-sharing processes with outside parties can be tricky, but with the proper precautions, such as a well-drafted NDA, you can avoid legal issues.
However, the best way to ensure everything goes smoothly is to work with professionals who already have experience editing sensitive business documents.
With years of experience copy editing many different types of technical and nontechnical business documents for spelling and grammar as well as tone and flow, the team at Super Copy Editors is well equipped to handle your secure files with expertise.
Each member of our freelance editing team has signed our company’s confidentiality agreement to protect our clients’ information, and our business insurance policy includes privacy liability protection. We are also happy to review and sign your company’s NDA if that helps put you further at ease. Get your quick, personalized quote now for our editing and proofreading services.