The Official Kunvay Blog

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

3 Common Questions about T-Shirt Design & Copyright Law Answered

Tshirt copyright laws

Photo Credit: “8” by Mico Samardzija used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Summer is coming again and our thoughts inevitably turn to rounding up the usual suspects, a bunch of t-shirts, some cutoffs and a pair of sandals.

No more grabbing vintage tee collectables at the local resale store, this year is going to be different, this is the year you silk screen your own t-shirts.

How about a huge, green, Irish triskele, triple spiral, on a velvet black t-shirt or a banana yellow hibiscus printed over an ocean blue tee?

No question, there are millions of graphic possibilities but coming up with a creative vision that won’t step on someone else’s copyright for some reason invokes a measure of creative block.

No worries; get the screen printing inks ready.  We’ll take a look at the questions, sort out some answers and you’ll be cranking out t-shirts in no time.

1.  Can I print any design on a t-shirt legally?

There are two “bear-trap” words in this question and those are “any” and “legally.”

The answer to this very general question is wholly dependent on facts and circumstances left forever unstated.

There is Continue reading

What Every Creative & Ad Agency Outsourcing Work to Freelancers Needs to Know About Copyright

Photo Credit: Mojave wins Creative Agency Awards 09 by Mojave Interactive used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo Credit: Mojave wins Creative Agency Awards 09 by Mojave Interactive used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Creative agencies are increasingly shrinking the number of in-house or staff creatives and opting to rely on freelancers to perform a multitude of tasks from pitching ideas to sustaining an advertising campaign.

The sluggish economy has stressed many agencies causing those employers to suffer difficulties in covering the cost of maintaining staff employees.

It costs a lot these days to maintain a regular employee on staff (payroll taxes, healthcare, insurance, etc.).

Outsourcing of Freelance Work on the Rise

Some employers hoping to pinch a few nickels have turned to hiring freelancers and specifically designating them workers under agreement or “independent contractors” to function as part-time, intermittent and offsite workers that in truth provide the majority of the agency’s day to day creative needs.

Unfortunately, these employers wrongly conclude that simply claiming an employee is an independent contractor even if he is supplying regular, ongoing and predictable company tasks will relieve an employer of his responsibilities to State and federal taxation authorities.

It will not, and worse, this action could be considered intentional tax fraud.

If they could only see and hear the state and federal agency tax-collecting accountants slowly pursing their lemon-sucking lips into a shape that only slightly resembles a smile. “Penny wise and pound foolish,” they’d sneer in response, “Do these people think we were born yesterday on what? Audit that company.”

Copyright Ownership & Transfer, Employees and Independent Contractors

And if navigating the many potholes and ditches of payroll doesn’t provide enough points of interest for unwary management there is always the very dicey issue of copyright Continue reading

3 Common Copyright & IP Lawsuits Just Waiting to Happen to You & Your Business

Photo Credit: Large copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle pieces by Horia Varlan used under CC BY 2.0.

Photo Credit: Large copyright sign made of jigsaw puzzle pieces by Horia Varlan used under CC BY 2.0.

The three most common Intellectual Property (IP) themed lawsuits are likely those that center on independent contractor/employee issues, copyright ownership issues and the hijacking of a unique and moneymaking idea.

The issues that create these types of lawsuits tend to crop up again and again for the simple reason that the law protecting the rights of the players is not always intuitive for most people with the result that costly and inadvertent mistakes can easily be made.

The first important legal mine field to know more about is the one that pits the rights of a creative or freelancer against those of an employer.

Part I. Independent Contractor IP Rights v. Employee

Just for a moment pretend that you created this really innovative business and you hired your neighbor’s kid do the programming work for your website.

Now that your business has really taken off you are wondering if the kid actually Continue reading

5 Important Facts You Need to Know about Graphic Design, Copyright & IP that Design School Didn’t Teach You

Photo Credit: 5 Mosaic by Leo Reynolds used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photo Credit: 5 Mosaic by Leo Reynolds used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

For most graphics designers, it’s hard enough juggling the rigors of running a business or staying on top of a hectic freelance schedule.

Add to that the mountain of confusing information surrounding intellectual property (IP) rights, and a vast sea of frustration, and even borderline apathy, might quickly ensue.

However, graphic designers have good reason to get to know the specifics about their IP rights.

Once work is created and made available to the public, the chances of someone claiming the work as their own or reproducing it without giving proper credit can skyrocket in today’s technologically advanced, share-friendly culture. Nothing is more infuriating than discovering that your creative ability is being exploited by someone who has neither the permission nor the right to do so.

Quality Work Needs Quality Protection

Getting the facts about intellectual property laws and how they affect your design work is something that simply cannot be put off.

That’s because just about all the work that designers produce falls under the category of intellectual property, and the wisest thing to do with intellectual property is to protect it.

Remember, just because there is no tangible product involved in your creative process does not mean your work deserves any less protection, or compensation, than other valuable business assets.

Graphics designers also must be prepared to go beyond simply protecting their own work. They also need to make sure they don’t end up infringing someone else’s work as well.

In the design field, as in any other, it’s considered extremely disrespectful and ethically inconsiderate to use someone else design without permission.

It’s imperative that designers stay abreast of what is and is not allowed when it comes to using the images, photos and design elements of other artists and creators.

Fact 1. The Difference Between a Copyright and a Trademark is Use

Several types of intellectual property rule the graphics design world.

There are differences here that are essential to know for interactions with clients as well as for protecting your ideas and creative work.

The two most important IP rights for graphics designers are copyrights and trademarks.

Copyright. A copyright protects any completed graphic element whether registered or not. Even though you Continue reading

How Mismanaging Your Copyright & IP Rights is Ruining Your Career as a Creative or Freelancer (And How to Fix It!)

Photo Credit: Money Down the Drain by Images Money used under CC BY 2.0

Photo Credit: Money Down the Drain by Images Money used under CC BY 2.0

As a freelancer, your work is your livelihood.

It’s your product, service and brand, all rolled into one.

And without a big business to hide behind, it’s just you and your creations on display for all the world to see.

This is both the burden and the blessing of being self-employed.

Managing and protecting your work, then, is critical to your progress, especially when it comes to ownership and copyrights.

If you’re not controlling ownership of your work, you could be missing out on big clients, big paychecks and big opportunities.

Unfortunately, many freelancers and creatives are unnecessarily–and sometimes unknowingly–stifling their careers simply because they don’t understand copyright and intellectual property (IP) laws.

Grasping the rules of ownership could make or break your freelance salary. So if you’re serious about your career, you need to recognize where you’re throwing money away, and then work to fix it!

I’ve identified the 3 most common copyright & IP errors, in no particular order, that lead to suppressed freelance careers and salaries.

1) Accepting Royalty Payments

First of all, you should never accept royalties as payment. I know, it sounds tempting, especially for those of you still trying to make your first mark.

But hear me now; royalties are a rip-off. You should never make your income dependent on what the client does with the work after-the-fact. Continue reading