Graphic design and copyright transfer, don’t get stuck

Day-to-day we spend time creating solutions to our clients’ design briefs. When everything is signed off and the invoice paid, who owns the copyright? Many clients, whether commissioning their first design work or old hands who handle substantial marketing budgets, are surprised by the fact that unless a specific agreement is made, copyright remains with the designer. Consider the following example:

A company, Big Business Ltd, briefs a design studio, Seemed Good Studios, to produce a new corporate identity and 2014 brochure. Things tick along for a while but soon Seemed Good Studios aren’t cutting the mustard. Big Business Ltd find a new design studio, Better Choice Design, and brief them to produce their updated 2015 brochure.

Big Business Ltd request that Seemed Good Studios send over the existing artwork and logos to enable Better Choice Design to commence work. Seemed Good Studios refuse to provide the requested items as the copyright was never transferred to Big Business Ltd on completion of the original work. Rather than face a potential copyright claim or the expense and inconvenience of producing fresh designs, Big Business Ltd are trapped into placing the work with Seemed Good Studios.

In practice, most designers recognise that being obstructive over copyright is a quick way to ensure that the client never contacts them again. It does happen however, and for the client who wishes to have complete control it’s important to a) Ensure that the copyright transfer is addressed at the very start of any project, and b) Obtain documentation clearly stating the details of the transfer once any work is completed.

At Supermonkey Creative we’re firm believers that the best glue for joining client and designer is great work, not copyright wrangling, so if you’re thinking of taking a fresh look at your design needs we’d enjoy chatting with you.

Image: &copy woodleywonderworks http://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/4471608005 license: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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