Design Copyrights–What They Are and Who Holds Them?

design_copyrightsWhen you hire a graphic designer or agency to develop your company’s logo, do you know who owns the rights to that design? It’s important to understand copyrights before you sign a contract.

The Muddy Waters of Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property rights can be murky territory when you hire someone else to do creative work for your business. Copyright is typically used to protect the creator of a piece of work that is written, drawn, painted, or recorded in some fashion. Copyrights typically lie with the person or entity that created the design. For example, if a designer develops sample logos that is used in a portfolio, they own the copyright – other people cannot swipe the design and use it for their own purposes.  However, when a company works with in-house designers to whom they pay a salary, the employer owns the copyright to those designs.

Things get tricky when a company hires an outside person or entity to create artwork. In those cases, the copyright can lie with the person or company who contracted the work. Why? Because the design is being produced for the company’s use as an identifying symbol for that organization or its products. However, there is no guarantee that the hiring company will retain copyrights. In order to define just who owns the rights to the logo or design, a contract must exist that defines the relationship between the hiring company and the contracted design firm.

Why Does Copyright Matter?

Why should you, as a business owner, be concerned about copyrights to a contracted design? If, for, example you hired an agency to produce a logo for a single product, but you then choose to expand that logo to your entire line, the designer could come back and say they are entitled to further compensation. Should the dispute go to court, your organization could be on the hook. It is possible that a judge would determine that your company is infringing on the copyright each and every time you use that design – even when used for its original purpose.  That’s not all. If the copyright lies with the logo’s creator and you decide to tweak it a few months later, that new logo could also be considered an infringement on the original copyright.

Before you decide to enter into a relationship with a graphic design firm, be sure to have a contract in place that clearly defines copyright. Some designers refuse to give up the rights to their work, and while it might make sense to allow them to retain rights, it could land your company in a world of expensive trouble down the line.

At The NetMen Corp, our team clearly defines intellectual property rights before you sign on with us. Your company will be the sole owner of the copyright to your new design, so that you’ll be free to use it the way it was intended – to help your business grow. If you have questions, or would like to learn more about our process, contact us today.

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About The Author:  is CEO of The Netmen Corp.