Awkward situation with copyright

Josephine

New Member
Hi, I'm a freelance designer and currently in a awkward position regarding contract breach and copyright.

I have been working under a contract agreement for a large company where I agreed to them owning the copyright. I have subsequently found out the person who recommended me and has been my point of contact for projects is now leaving the company and has asked that some work they briefed me on is not invoiced to the company, lend the graphic to them as investment in kind (with payment and subsequent work opportunity subject to them winning tenders) and would I be willing to share the copyright. The legal advice I've been given is quite general regarding shared copyright, in that we can basically set whatever terms we want as long as we agree and sign appropriate documentation.

From my perspective, despite not being able to copyright an idea, I am willing to share the copyright with this person due to the nature of the graphic and the project in general, but out of principle I think I should retain modification rights, reason being, I'm concerned I don't want my name attached to a modified version because I cannot guarantee the quality of the modified graphic and don't want it to hurt the reputation of my work. However, I also feel pushing a copyright agreement is a waste of my time in this case, since it will be hard for me to track whether it's been modified and it might discourage this person from contracting me in the future. That said, I also want to be professional and not a walk-over when it comes to standing up for my rights and business quality.

I am feeling very torn and at the point of just letting the work be shared and crossing the bridge of owning copyright within a future contract rather than a separate license agreement.

Does anyone have any thoughts on how I should proceed with this?

Thanks in advance!
 

Levi

Moderator
Staff member
Without knowing all the details or contract etc so this is more 'general' advice/information.

  • Point of contact within a company is just that, point of contact, they're an employee of that company.
  • Your contract is (I assume) with the company not the point of contact.
  • The point of contact does not have any bearing on the contract, in most cases they're essentially the person who is showing your work to their bosses and relaying any feedback to you.
  • The likelihood is the point of contact may have a contact preventing them from taking work with them when they leave due to agreeing to all work being copyright of the business they work for.
  • Check your contracts, doing what you mention might actually mean you're in breach of the contract and leave you liable etc.

What you've written honestly reads as the point of contact leaving the company, wanting to take YOUR work as an example of their work so they can get work now they've left the company for whatever reason. If it was me I'd be contacting the company directly (I personally always ask for 2 points of contact minimum where possible in case one is unavailable) and trying to get in touch with someone higher up the food chain if you will because I just have this feeling the point of contract is trying to pull a fast one over you for their own benefit.

Personally I wouldn't be giving them any work, especially with 'payment and subsequent work opportunity' being mentioned... I like to get paid for my work.
 

Josephine

New Member
Without knowing all the details or contract etc so this is more 'general' advice/information.

  • Point of contact within a company is just that, point of contact, they're an employee of that company.
  • Your contract is (I assume) with the company not the point of contact.
  • The point of contact does not have any bearing on the contract, in most cases they're essentially the person who is showing your work to their bosses and relaying any feedback to you.
  • The likelihood is the point of contact may have a contact preventing them from taking work with them when they leave due to agreeing to all work being copyright of the business they work for.
  • Check your contracts, doing what you mention might actually mean you're in breach of the contract and leave you liable etc.

What you've written honestly reads as the point of contact leaving the company, wanting to take YOUR work as an example of their work so they can get work now they've left the company for whatever reason. If it was me I'd be contacting the company directly (I personally always ask for 2 points of contact minimum where possible in case one is unavailable) and trying to get in touch with someone higher up the food chain if you will because I just have this feeling the point of contract is trying to pull a fast one over you for their own benefit.

Personally I wouldn't be giving them any work, especially with 'payment and subsequent work opportunity' being mentioned... I like to get paid for my work.
Hi Levi,

Appreciate your sound advice, and one side of me definitely agrees and accepts this is the case. However, the reality is a little more nuanced than that which makes things all the more awkward - essentially this person has been instrumental in helping me build my career some years ago and I would not have obtained this contract without them. The work in question has not been shared with the company, so as far as they are concerned, it does not exist. So, correct me if I'm wrong, this means it does not breach contract (there is nothing in the contract that states I can only produce work for that company)? All I have done so far is create work under the impression I was to get paid for it. In terms of copyright details within my contract, it is very brief: the company owns the copyright to any work I create for them.

With the above in mind, my thought is to put this down to experience and move on as I think putting my foot down in this case would hinder rather than help the situation.
 

Josephine

New Member
Why do they need the rights to your work?
They're asking to share the rights because they came up with the idea and want to be credited for it on the visual material. They have not asked for the editable file to modify it, but I guess I would like to cover myself for the future (ie. other designers being contracted to edit it). Also, having worked with them, I know they can add stuff to it but not necessarily in a way I would be happy to put my name to with regard to graphic design. However, not sure how much I can actually prevent this from happening (hence thinking that drafting a license agreement is a waste of time), as they will not be claiming the entire work as their own, and I would be only sharing my version of the graphic on my channels.
 

scotty

Moderator
Staff member
As I see it, unless you were an employee of the company or Work For Hire then you retain the rights.

If you were WFH then the copyright only covers work that has been specifically commissioned for the company.

More here.

However, not sure how much I can actually prevent this from happening

Just don't hand the source files over.
 

Levi

Moderator
Staff member
as they will not be claiming the entire work as their own
Trust me when they get into a meeting they will not 'share' ownership of said work, it will all be theirs.

Had it back at uni, had to share the final imagery and cad imagery I'd made so I ensured the work couldn't be editted and had group project over etc. They weren't overly happy about it shall we say because they couldn't say it was theirs.


As to the earlier post.. personally I still wouldn't share the work, especially for free, but thats just me. Even when I've done work for friends/family I make it clear I'm still going to charge them although I do give them a small discount if they're close friends/family. At the end of the day design is my livelihood so I can't pay my bills if I do it all for free.
 
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