Common Copyright Myths and Misconceptions, Part 2

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| November 17, 2011

The Guild Logo

Usage Issues: Who Owns What?

I hired a graphic designer to create a logo for my company. She showed me three different ideas, and I picked the one that I liked best. She worked on that one until it was perfect, and I paid her. But she’d sent me the other logos as digital files by e-mail at the beginning of the job, and I’ve kept them. She didn’t finish them as part of this job, but I like them too, so I finished them and I’m using them for something else. Now she’s angry, and she says they’re her copyrighted work and I’m infringing them; she says she never gave me permission to use those other ones. Well, I paid her for the job, so don’t I own the copyright for everything she did for me?

It depends on the terms of the agreement.

  1. What was stated as the work to be delivered in the project description of the agreement? If the designer was commissioned to produce one finished logo design, then you, the client, have permission to use only the one finished design.
  2. The fee for the job is a combination of the designer’s fee to produce the finished design and the license fee for the client to use the finished design as described in the project description. The payment is not automatically a full buyout of all copyrights to all sketches and designs created during the working process of the job, unless clearly stated so in a written agreement between the designer and client. If the designer stated she was giving permission to use only the final design, that is what you paid for and the only usage permitted. If you want to use more than one design, you would have to renegotiate the terms of the agreement.
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