Graphic designer to Legal123: “Who owns the copyright to my Infographic designs?”
Our graphic designer contacted us a few days ago. He was the great designer behind our fabulous Copyright Infringement Infographic. He wanted to ask us about one of the Infographic images he’d created for a client and what his rights were in relation to the image.
The reason for asking? He’d found another graphic designer had been promoting the Infographic as her own creation and it was part of her design portfolio. His name had not been mentioned. And obviously he felt this was false and misleading. I agree. If you did not create it, do not pretend you did!
When our designer asked his client why they were representing that the image was one of their designer’s work, he was told to refer to the agreement he had signed with them. Apparently they thought they had FULL ownership.
Did the agreement give them ownership of the Infographic?
I asked for a copy of the agreement he had signed with his client – a reputable UK SEO company. To my surprise he provided an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) which they had made him sign.
The NDA had nothing to do with the work he performed for them. It did not contain any reference to the design or contain a licensing or ownership clause. It did state that they were protecting confidential financial information that the designer would be providing them with!
Extraordinary, an agreement that had nothing to do with the design work they were purchasing from him. And talking about non-existent financial information.
‘Self-lawyering’ and digging yourself a big hole
More and more people are trying to ‘self-lawyer’ – and frankly, don’t understand what they are doing. Even mid-sized companies. This NDA agreement is a perfect case in point.
We see smaller organisations cutting corners and providing documents that they don’t understand, that don’t protect them or even worse, put them in a worse position had they not provided or signed anything! It always comes at a cost. You don’t see it until something goes wrong.
Anyway, it was the wrong agreement. They also filled it out incorrectly making our designer the person who was protected by the agreement rather than themselves! It seems that the SEO firm that hired our graphic designer has made a huge error that could cost them financially as well as reputationally.
So who owns the copyright to a collaborative work?
Our normal advice when it comes to the Internet and copyright law is summarised in our handy, dandy guide: Copyright Infringement Myths & Facts.
But an Infographic is a special case. It’s normally a collaborative work, where a researcher will collect the facts and write the takeaway summary points and a graphic designer will layout the design and create the graphic images.
By default, the graphic designer owns the rights and the copyright of the images.
So from the lack of a proper agreement and understanding by his client, our graphic designer has the right to go back to the client and the designer who is portraying the image as her own and claim damages (if suffered). He is also due a share of any revenue that the image produced. The bogus designer is required to remove her name and give him credit for his work everywhere she posted the work, both on and off the internet. And provide an apology. Ouch.
How could this have been avoided?
From the client’s perspective what should they have done? They should have licensed the image from the graphic designer, as either an exclusive or non-exclusive design. Then in this licensing agreement they should have stated clearly that they had the right to reproduce the image, without giving the graphic designer credit, if that is what they wanted.
If you’re contracting graphic designers to create Infographic designs for your business, don’t make this mistake. Make sure you agree and understand ownership and use of graphics when you engage anyone to do work for you. Do not assume!
If someone has copied your work online, use our Copyright Infringement Notice to request take down, compensation or offer licensing. Plus what to do if you’re ignored. Get the Legal123: