The Official Kunvay Blog

Learn how to navigate copyright and intellectual property ownership smartly so you own your work, and own your future.

What Happens When a Freelancer Does Graphic Design Work for a Client Without a Contract: Mark’s Copyright Case Study

Photo Credit: No Contract by Leo Reynolds used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photo Credit: No Contract by Leo Reynolds used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Mark is a self employed graphic artist.

He routinely works with clients on an independent contractor basis.

Mark decided to work on a particular client’s project without a written agreement or contract stating the terms of the association.

The client later refused to pay Mark for his work.

The client then began to freely use Mark’s work claiming (1) there was no written or verbal contract for services and no “course of dealing understanding” between them and (2) and that based on the lack of any formal agreement Mark retained no copyright ownership interest or rights in the work he contributed to the project.

Mark feels the client not only ripped off his creative input and artwork but he seems to have been able to misappropriate the copyright interest in his work. Mark has proof his client is using his artwork.

Is there anything Mark can do? You bet there is!

Valid Transfer of Copyright Ownership

Let’s assume that Mark has a valid copyright in his own artwork even when he has produced the work under a client’s requests and directions. Can the client claim ownership of Mark’s copyright in the work? Continue reading

5 Facts You Didn’t Know About Photos & Copyright

Photo Credit: Golden Gate Bridge - Photographing World's Most Photographed Place by Anirudh Koul used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Photo Credit: Golden Gate Bridge – Photographing World’s Most Photographed Place by Anirudh Koul used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Photography and copyright can be tricky subject matter.

For most of us, copyright violations rather than copyright facts bring issues to light, so we learn by the mistakes of others.

This path, however, leaves room for the spread of rampant misconceptions about the proper application of the law.

The risks are high, too. These days copyright violations can lead to hefty fines and even criminal charges in some instances. At least, infringers can expect a pushy take down email with a lawyer’s threat of court time. Clearly, it’s essential to know key facts.

Even though photographic copyrights can get complicated, the facts can bring clarity and clear up confusion.

Granted, it’s not always pleasant to discover all the sharing you’ve been doing on your Tumblr feed is probably actionable in court should the photographer choose to pursue it, or to realize that the fellow you verbally abused via email for copying your Instagram photo might actually have a good claim under the fair use doctrine. Still, when it comes to photos and copyrights, it’s always good to get the facts first.

Fact 1: The minute someone snaps the shutter, that person owns the copyright.

This seems straightforward. Copyright is a right of ownership in original works fixed in a tangible form. A photo fits easily in this category. Unless there is a contractual agreement declares otherwise, the person taking a photo owns its copyright. Some have raised the idea that a photo is a mechanical representation of fact. Even with this description, a photo is definitely the original expression of the photographer, in tangible form.

Things get tricky when Continue reading

3 Lessons You Can Learn about Copyright & IP from a Startup Founder Who Got Screwed Over by Innovation Exchange (IX) & The Clorox Company in a $45K Open Innovation Challenge

Innovation Exchange Logo FinalClorox FinalYou might think the founder of a startup that helps creatives, freelancers and their clients transfer copyright and intellectual property ownership online would have no problem when it comes to transferring IP rights to his own work to someone else, but you would be wrong.

As Kunvay’s founder, I know exactly what it’s like to run into problems transferring ownership of my work to someone else while getting paid fairly for my contributions.

Transferring and acquiring ownership rights to knowledge work is complex and can be frustrating to administrate.

In this post, you’ll learn three important lessons I learned from a recent experience that could be of benefit to you as well.

So let’s begin . . .

I’ve always been a fan of open innovation and crowdsourcing ever since reading Dan Tapscott’s book, Wikinomics. No matter how big your organization is (whether you’re a boutique creative studio or Procter & Gamble), there are more smart people outside your organization than inside your organization so why not benefit from ideas and perspectives from the outside?

Today many companies routinely acquire solutions to business problems created by people outside their organization giving rise to intermediary companies like Innocentive and Innovation Exchange (IX) that provide a platform to outsource business challenges to the proverbial crowd. These intermediaries consult with companies on business problems and then present those business problems in the form of sponsored challenges to solvers like you and me to solve. If a company likes your solution they award you a prize, and you transfer IP rights to your solution to the company. Continue reading

How Writers and Book Authors Can Avoid Common Copyright & IP Pitfalls in 4 Steps

Photo Credit: IMG_0859 by Nathan Gunter Used Under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Photo Credit: IMG_0859 by Nathan Gunter Used Under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

It seems like every time you meet up with friends you are greeted with the news that one of them is releasing of some sort of book.

And it each time it happens your thoughts are pulled to that garret space about the garage where you have spent almost the last decade working on the next great American novel.

Lately you’ve been noticing that the neighbors keep checking up on you when they see the lights still on at three in the morning.

It’s probably to make sure you haven’t inadvertently left that old car running again with an oily rag or something stuffed in its exhaust pipe.

You’ve edited your creation again and again and then you edited it just once or maybe twice more in case you might have missed something somewhere. You’ve researched every historical reference for accuracy, followed every story line to a resolution, assured story continuity with each character’s motivation leading to the achievement of a goal and allowed for a surprising and satisfying resolution of all of the conflicts including one or two of emotional epiphanies. You figure your family will never recognize themselves in characters which they have inspired and even if they do you’ve prepared a response involving a convenient accusation that they are nursing some sort of narcissistic personality disorder.

You’ve never been more ready. You’re afraid of nothing and nobody. And then, a cold chill runs down your spine as you remember that you still have no literary agent and no publisher. Your awareness switches focus to the coyotes howling under the summer moonlight and that bottomless pit in your stomach starts to churn and roll with horror as you recognize the fact that as of this moment you are just another unknown and unpublished genius.

Protecting an Unpublished Work

You comfort yourself with thoughts of how your literary hero, James Joyce, got countless rejection letters from publishers all over the world who couldn’t relate to the potential marketability of Ulysses. The manuscript alone must have weighed three hundred pounds. Can you imagine the “synopsis letter” for that one? And it is true that the first publishers of Ulysses were arrested and fined for their trouble. Mais avoir le courage, Aloysius, surely your work of art will inspire a far more warm and friendly reception. Right? It will, won’t it?

Step 1

Here is my advice Continue reading

T-Shirt Design Copyright Basics: 3 Facts Every Graphic Designer Should Know About T-Shirt Design

Photo Credit: 12a by Mico Samardzija used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Photo Credit: 12a by Mico Samardzija used under CC BY-NC 2.0

With the increased ability to share creative ideas and art, graphic designers everywhere are finding more lucrative opportunities to profit from their work.

T-shirt designing is a fashionable possibility but very little has been published to give guidance to the budding artists who are providing the designs that make today’s t-shirts so popular.

As the industry flourishes, copyright challenges and questions seem to grow almost as quickly.

Copyright ownership lines are often blurred and it’s a challenge to keep up with the laws and understand who owns what and who can do what to whom!  The maze of legal issues can be overwhelming and distract you from what’s really important – selling your work for profit.

Therefore, if you really want to monetize your graphic design work in the t-shirt world, you’ve got to know your legal rights and understand the copyright laws surrounding this industry. That way you can move forward knowing that your work is being distributed in a way that you’re comfortable with, without the stress of wondering if you’re losing money or control over your designs.

What is Copyright?

Before I go any further, let’s start with a basic definition of ‘copyright’ and what it means to t-shirt designers.

Copyright is the ownership over a piece of work or art and the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, commercially exploit, and otherwise profit from it.

So, for those of you designing art for t-shirts and other products, copyright generally refers to ownership and control over the art and designs you’re creating for third parties and their products.

The #1 Question T-Shirt Designers Ask Is . . . 

Over and over we hear, ‘When my work is printed on a t-shirt, who owns the copyrights?’

That’s the golden question. Continue reading