Client using unpaid logo proofs for real estate sign...

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by snickelfritz, Jun 24, 2009.

  1. snickelfritz macrumors 65816


    Oct 24, 2003
    Tucson AZ
    A year ago (almost to the day) I spent several hours working with a realtor on a logo design to be used for a website.
    I sent several PDF proofs of the logo design (back and forth, change this, make this bigger, make that smaller, etc...), and an estimate for the website and logo design.
    The website job never happened, and I was never paid for the logo design.
    I basically just wrote the whole thing off, since no commercial assets were produced.

    A few days ago, the same realtor emailed me and requested new business cards. (I do their card and brochure design/printing)
    Attached to the email was a new photo of the realtor, and a PDF of their current real estate sign artwork, with a request to use the logo from the sign on the business cards.
    The logo is the one I designed and was never paid for.

    How would you handle this?
    (personally, I don't care about the money; it's the principle that bothers me)

  2. SwiftLives macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2001
    Charleston, SC
    First of all, learn to care about the money.

    Secondly, kindly inform the realtor that they are currently using a design for which you have not been compensated for, therefor they do not have permission or a license to use said design. Chances are, this will either get you paid or get them to stop using it.

    If that doesn't work, gather your records - including all communication with the client about this project - especially the communication regarding the cancellation of their website. Then find a lawyer. Chances are, a sternly worded letter from a lawyer will result in fairly quick resolution.

    In the future, you should perhaps consider having a client sign a contract which includes either a kill fee for cancelled work, or a payment structure when you are paid x amount up front and x amount upon delivery.

    I've learned this the hard way.
  3. snickelfritz thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 24, 2003
    Tucson AZ
    Thanks for the response.
    My first instinct is to cancel the entire account.
    My second instinct is to raise my rates 20% for everything on the account, to compensate for the logo theft, and simply forget about it.
    (I'm sure the "theft" was probably just an oversight on their part, but the lack of consideration bothers me a little)
  4. PixelFactory macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2003
    I would bet the oversight is that they forgot you designed the logo in the first place. SwiftLives suggestion is good. Another thing to think about is what kind of revenue you generate from this client on a regular basis. Is it worth tarnishing a relationship with them and losing future projects? I know it sucks to lose the revenue from the logo, but it may be worth it to just let it slide.
  5. likeavaliant macrumors regular

    Oct 14, 2006
    Don't "let it slide" dude.
    You worked hard on it, you should be paid for the work that you did. The realtor also should know that she is using unlicensed/unpaid for work.

    You wouldn't ask to see a house, then just move in afterwards without paying for it would you? Same deal. Kind of.
  6. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    reply back saying something like "I see you're using the logo I designed for you. I'm glad you like it....but checking my records I find I haven't been paid yet so I'm attaching a copy of the estimate." and then wait to do anything more until you get a check.
  7. PixelFactory macrumors regular

    Jun 6, 2003
    Well Played.
  8. snickelfritz thread starter macrumors 65816


    Oct 24, 2003
    Tucson AZ
    Thanks everyone.
    I like this suggestion:
  9. DesignerGenes macrumors member

    May 4, 2009
    Omaha, NE
    low res proofs

    Normally when i design anything, especially a logo, i always send a low res proof with a watermark for this exact reason. A vector graphic like a logo saved as a pdf will still be useable to any scale (unless you set permissions to restrict everything in the PDF) a .jpg and a watermark usually eliminate this problem.

    That being said, I would just be straightforward with them...give them the benefit of the doubt and I'm sure that they will fork over the dough. After all, they are a business too and I'm sure that they wouldn't want to give their services away for free either. Document all communication and try your best to maintain a positive relationship with them. Clients are clients no matter how stinky they can be. If they don't cooperate then I would talk to a law man.

    Good luck!
  10. destere macrumors newbie

    Nov 30, 2008
    Just a tip for the future...

    I have always charged a 50% deposit before taking on anything. I never take the risk of something falling through.
  11. sigmadog macrumors 6502a


    Feb 11, 2009
    near Spokane, WA
    When I first start a relationship with a new client, I usually have them sign a contract which details out the payments to be made (usually 1/2 up front), and ownership issues.

    After I've worked with a client for a while, and they've established to me their trustworthiness, we tend to neglect the contract signing and payment issues.

    As a fail safe, I include a standard PDF proof sheet with every proof with a place for their digital signature, above which are some statements about changes not marked on proof are not my responsibility, etc. But most importantly, to protect my ownership of my work, even on preliminary proofs, there is the following line:

    "Unless otherwise stated (via contract or letter of agreement), all layout files and proofs created by sigmadog remain property of sigmadog. Unauthorized use is prohibited."

    That line has saved my butt a couple times over the years.

    You might wish to consider something similar, just so things are clear from the start.
  12. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    I had a very similar thing happen to me whereby the client had me mock up a design then end the project. About a year later I noticed they had stolen my design and produced it themselves, it was an EXACT copy of my branding plan, logo and web site mock up which I was never completely compensated for.

    After a lengthy legal battle I won and was paid damages, loss of income, copyright infringement and legal bills. Which was much more (by several times) the initial bill I sent them was.

    The lesson of this story get a good copyright lawyer to give honest well considered advice and "go for the jugular" when it comes to protecting your source of income.

    Tips for not getting the Heidi Fleiss Special:
    - Get a signed written contract/agreement
    - Use digital watermarks on all work
    - Get 33% up front
    - And with any artwork state who is the rightful owner and terms of usage
    - Get a good working relationship with a lawyer and account
  13. trendkiller macrumors member

    Dec 14, 2008
    This is an interesting subject for me as I'm currently at university and never considered what to do if this event arose for me.

    Just a quick question would a jpeg or a pdf with restrictions be the best way to send proof or just whack a subtle yet obtrusive watermark over the top?!
  14. Genghis Khan macrumors 65816

    Genghis Khan

    Jun 3, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
  15. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Always get a contract before doing any work, including mock ups.

    Read up on copyright
  16. mperkins37 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 17, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    Learned about contracts the hard way myself, Get one, Also sample screened over the flattened work or watermarked flattened art is all I send until final payment. Good Luck.
  17. TJRiver macrumors 6502


    Jan 14, 2009
    Send the "I'm sure you forgot..." letter and give them X days to pay. If no payment, you can do one of two things: (i) hire a lawyer and send a strong follow up letter; or (ii) if the amount of the contract was $7,500 or less, take the folks to small claims court. Your work is your source of livelihood, take it seriously.

    Ezek has some excellent ideas for your future contracts. The paperwork (or lack thereof) will kill you.
  18. Sayer macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Ever hear of Watermarks? PDFs support them. Photoshop can add them to images invisibly with plugins.

    Send low-res art samples as proofs, with watermarks all over them.
  19. Le Big Mac macrumors 68030

    Le Big Mac

    Jan 7, 2003
    Washington, DC
    That's kind of a separate issue, right? One might have a deal where you make a proposal for free hoping to get the business. Nothing wrong with that.

    And even if they paid the 50% it wouldn't make it right to use the logo without paying the other 50%.

    The proposed response above is good--assume for purposes of initial discussion it's an honest mistake. Tell them you'd like to do business, but that they owe you. If they blow you off, then you consider the lawyer, although I think you could probably write the first letter yourself telling them they have no right to use the logo.
  20. THX1139 macrumors 68000


    Mar 4, 2006
    I would give them one chance to make it right by following the advice already given. Send them a kind note saying they never paid for the design and perhaps they overlooked it. Include an invoice and a note to stop using the logo until paid in full. Followup with a call to show them you are serious. If they haven't paid in the alloted time, threaten them with a lawsuit. If they call your bluff, sue them. Who cares if it damages the relationship? Why would you ever want to do business with someone who steals from you?
  21. lag1090 macrumors 6502

    Jan 28, 2007
    Inform the client that they're inappropriately using an unpaid logo. Request that you negotiate terms for the price of the logo.

    While this is occurring, make sure you gather all of your records in case the client refuses.

    You deserve to be paid for work that you have completed. Avoid doing business with people who are more than happy to steal from you.

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