Imagine this . . . You have commissioned a graphic designer to come up with the perfect logo for your business.
After a while the designer comes back with your finished logo.
You are perfectly happy.
You pay the money.
The job is complete.
You assume you own the logo and are free to use it anytime, any place, anywhere.
Unfortunately, this may be the start of your troubles, because unless you have a documented transfer of the copyright by way of an assignment from the designer, the logo is still owned by the designer.
The job is, therefore, not finished, as the copyright issues are still hanging in the balance.
Payment Does Not Confer Automatic Copyright or Intellectual Property Ownership
So, this scenario may be extreme, after all, you have commissioned a logo – your brand identity – and what else are you going to do with your brand identify apart from use it wherever and whenever you can?
However, this is a good illustration of the potential curve balls that exist between creatives and clients, and why it makes good sense for both parties to know explicitly, from the outset, what is expected.
Avoid Curve Balls by Understanding Copyright Fundamentals
One of the fundamentals for clients who are commissioning creative work is to understand that copyright is always owned by the creator of the work.
Thus, an artwork will be owned by the artist, a book by the author and a song by the composer.
The exception to this is when work is created by an employee as part of their job, or if a contractor enters into a work-for-hire agreement. In these cases it will be the employer or client who owns the copyright.
The next thing for clients to realize is that commissioning creative work does not automatically grant you ownership of the rights.
It never pays to make assumptions – and this is the same from both a client and a contractor point of view.
Copyright is a tricky business, because you can be granted the rights to use something without being granted the copyright – and if you are under the misapprehension that the rights you have been granted by your contractor equates to a full copyright assignment then the consequences to your business can be devastating.
This situation is not uncommon, and there are some perfectly valid reasons why a creative would want to retain their copyright, but it is not particularly clear what these rights are, let alone who owns them.
Your Brand and Visual Identity at Stake
For example, going back to the logo, the general situation is that a client will commission a designer to come up with some ideas for its visual identity.
These ideas will be put to the client and one or more of them may be developed into a finished design. Alternatively, they may never reach the finished article stage and may just stay as a concept.
It is plain to see that there are a number of processes here. It is also clear to understand why this whole area is equally confusing to both clients and creatives, as to what rights are granted, and at what point?
Even if an assignment of copyright is granted, what is the assignment of copyright granted in? Is it the finished design? Does it include all the ideas and concepts for that design? What about the ideas and concepts that were abandoned?
This is why it is absolutely essential to clarify up-front and in writing exactly what copyrights will be assigned, because, as a client, if you do not have a specific grant of rights, then the law makes an implied ownership to the creator.
Work Contracts Don’t Always Address or Grant Full Ownership
Furthermore, even if you do have a contract outlining the specific grant of rights, this may only be a license rather than an assignment of copyright.
This is another potential curve-ball as a license will usually only grant you the rights to use the finished logo as it is. So, should you want to tweak it by, say, changing the font or color, you will find that you are unable to do so as you are not the owner of the copyright.
It should be remembered that while there may be no great benefit for a designer to retain the copyright in a commissioned logo, the potential banana skins are there for the unwary, and it pays to tread very carefully. So how do you avoid impending disaster?
Obviously, you will need to make sure you get an assignment of copyright for the rights you require. There are a number of ways of going about this, but not all of them are practical, cost-effective and secure.
Your Options for Transferring Full Copyright and IP Ownership
Firstly, there are generic assignment contracts. Many of these can be found on the web, either for free or a low fee.
The problem with these is that they are risky. They are generic, and so aren’t tailored to your specific circumstances. Unless you know exactly what you are doing, they could end up being more trouble than they are worth.
Secondly, you can enlist the services of a specialized copyright attorney. However, there are many instances where this is just not practical.
The internet, especially, has made it possible for everyone to be an entrepreneur, or a creative, or both.
A client is able to find a creative for a job in a matter of moments, from anywhere in the world and the brief can be outlined, completed and delivered in a double-quick turnaround time.
Neither party wants to be bogged down in legal paperwork and lengthy negotiations.
Furthermore, the cost of hiring an attorney can be prohibitively expensive on some of these types of projects.
So how can both parties ensure that the job is complete from a copyright point of view?
This is where Kunvay can help clients and creatives, making the whole process of copyright assignment a simple process for both parties.
See Kunvay explained below featuring an example with Ted “the bright-eyed entrepreneur.”
Using Kunvay to acquire creative work takes out all the uncertainty of acquiring an assignment of copyright.
Once you have approved and signed-off all the deliverables for a project, Kunvay handles the paperwork and you can download, print and retrieve this at any time.
You can be safe in the knowledge that you own the full and exclusive rights enabling you to use your new creative work anytime, any place, anywhere without fear of litigation or incurring royalty fees.
For just a fraction of the cost you would normally incur for a copyright attorney, Kunvay makes sure the job is well and truly finished by ensuring that the full assignment of copyright has been transferred to you with complete assurance.
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About the Author: Amanda Duffy has a degree in law from the University of Westminster, London. She has had a successful career in music copyright and publishing at the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society, the BBC and FremantleMedia. She is now a freelance writer.