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I paid for it. I must own it. Right?

pepperlegalpepperlegal subscriber Posts: 2 Member
edited December 2006 in Protecting Your Ideas
When hiring a photographer, graphic designer, website developer, or any other third party creative service provider, the popular opinion is that once the customer pays for the work, the customer owns it.  Not so.Under United States Copyright law, the creator of a work continues to own the copyright to such work unless there is a written assignment of that copyright to the customer.  In the absence of such a written assignment, the customer would be granted a license to use the work, while the creator / copyright owner maintains the ability to reuse or resell the work as he or she pleases.


  • DanielleDanielle subscriber Posts: 4
    No, Craig, if the designer has not transferred ownership IN WRITING to the client who commissioned the work, that client may not alter the work in any way. Designers have often had sites shut down for this reason.If you want to not only pay for the labor to create the work, but also own the full copyright to it, you have to specifically negotiate for the sale of that right with the designer. Most designers (in the real profession) charge for the value of that ownership. And keep in mind, that they are in no way obligated to sell you that right if they don`t choose to.When hiring design work, make sure the designer is very clear in their contracts about what license you have to the work, what you are allowed to do with it, for how long and how you may use it. Have these conversations up front so there is no misunderstanding later. Consult with an IP attorney for advice.It`s really a good idea for everyone, both clients and designers, as business people to get themselves educated about copyright and trademark laws.
    Danielle2006-12-10 13:10:14
  • iouone2iouone2 subscriber Posts: 14
    I absolutely agree. Get familiar with the copyright and trademark laws. I have oven wondered...If I designed a site, but don`t maintain it. Soon someone must maintain it. As time goes, the structure will likely change with the required updates. Should I, the designer, still be able to claim I created that site, months or even years down the road?When dealing with creative industries, you really have to cover everything. That`s why I can only say...Get familiar with the copyright and trademark laws.They may not change daily, but it is good to refresh your knowledge base from time to time. You never know... something might have changed.
  • GenoskiGenoski subscriber Posts: 0
    Dayum! I didn`t know this! Thanks for the info, Danielle....
    Oh great,  there goes my oemlogo 
  • NuevolutionNuevolution subscriber Posts: 30 Bronze Level Member
    Yes that is the copyright law. But there are limitations.... The Designer only owns the code.... Not the content of the web site. The content of the web site belongs to the customer (text, images, logo). The copy right law specifies what belongs to the designer and what belongs to the Customer. If you provide your designers with your own images... He can get in trouble for using them elsewhere. Now what you can do is negotiate an "Exclusive" ownership with the designer.  Another thing that most designers are doing is charging you royalty fees for your sales on your shopping cart. The royalty fee can be for 1 to 5 years but no longer than that (and they have the right to go through your database/admin side to see all of your sales).
  • AdvisorGarageAdvisorGarage subscriber Posts: 10
    I wanted to add that this isn`t just for photos, websites and so on...if you have an idea for a new product and get someone with more technical expertise than yourself to develop the propotype from YOUR drawings etc...the act of interpretation and development may mean that that person has a right to be included on any patents that may come out of the project.  I was personally `burnt` by this - i.e. someone`s father helped his son with the development of our prototype and when the product was a `hit` the father sued both the son and the company for his share!  Nice!
    Be careful to agree who owns what BEFORE undertaking the work - this also goes for people helping you with Business Plans and so on...they could always come back and ask for equity due to the addition of thier intellectual property i.e. ideas!
  • DanielleDanielle subscriber Posts: 4
    That`s why you consult with an attorney (like PepperLegal) to help you navigate these things before you talk to anyone. An attorney will help you devise NDAs (non disclosure agreements) and other language that clearly spells out your ownership. You have people sign these things BEFORE you give them access or have them do work.
  • pepperlegalpepperlegal subscriber Posts: 2 Member
    Hey there Geno...
    Danielle, or Pepperlegal, what exactly is the status of a logo? Has
    anyone yet worked out how many elements of a previous picture can/must
    be changed before it`s considered "original?"

    Unfortunately there are no bright line tests.  Anything considered "derivative" of the original work is still owned by the original copyright owner.  There has to be significant and meaningful differences in the new work in order to truly make it a new work.  How is that defined?  Simply on a case by case and fact by fact basis.
  • patentandtrademarkpatentandtrademark subscriber Posts: 103
    AdvisorGarage makes a good point.  A patent attorney (like myself) can help you identify and protect those inventorship rights before any patent application is filed.  The inventors are the owners unless there is an assignment of rights.
  • pepperlegalpepperlegal subscriber Posts: 2 Member
    Jeez...I don`t
    know why this particular phrasing or words or whatever made it more
    clear, but I`m definitely getting an "ah hah!" moment from this
    I`m always happy to flush out a bunny rabbit.
  • TRDesignTRDesign subscriber Posts: 1
    Like TonerDesign i`m also a designer and i have my clients sign a contract up front that says after they have paid in full they own it free and clear and that i only reserve the right to display it as examples of my work.  I`m sure there are reasons to keep copyright ownership as a designer but personally i don`t think its fair or right, especially when the client doesn`t understand how copyright works (and they often don`t).
    You should definitely be asking that question any time you do creative work like websites or printing or logos or whatever, before you move forward figure out copyright and get it in writting.  It will save you a big headache later.
  • MarksMarks subscriber Posts: 0
    Would you think that includes XRAYS???
  • westnovawestnova subscriber Posts: 1
    Wow, another thing I didn`t know. With a copyrighted sculpture that I want to introduce as an educational toy, and I want to use in my web site I am in the process of working with my patent attorney to cover all my bases. This certainly confirms my go slow approach in getting everything set before I go.
  • pepperlegalpepperlegal subscriber Posts: 2 Member
    This is otherwise known as the concept of "self help," and is typically frowned upon in the law.  However, in any contract with a webhoster or ASP, you need to be careful that you aren`t giving up your rights in allowing the hoster to hold your site or data hostage.  I`ve seen these clauses pop up in certain deals that I`ve worked, and demand that they be removed.In any event, be smart, and protect yourself in practical ways regardless of what the contract says (i.e., back up your site, data, etc. regularly).
  • patentandtrademarkpatentandtrademark subscriber Posts: 103
    It really depends on what the contract says in many cases.  No matter who had what rights ORIGINALLY, they can generally be modified by contract.  Liens on property can sometimes be taken where "the wall" can`t be torn down - referring to the example above.
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