Leaving company. Can all my projects come with me?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by jdl8422, Nov 18, 2009.

  1. jdl8422 macrumors 6502


    Jul 5, 2006
    I have been at the company I work for, for about a year now and being the only graphic designer I have ALOT of different projects built up. If I were to leave the company, I dont think I could take all my project files with me and not let the company keep them. The problem I am having is I want to leave it and have my replacement reuse all my work and claim it as his own. Anyone else been in this situation?
  2. covisio macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2007
    You were employed by that company, not freelance. Therefore you have no claim to copyright on any of the work produced.
    If it hadn't been for that company obtaining the work for you to do, you wouldn't have done it.
    Sorry, sounds harsh but that's the way it is.
    Yes I have been in that situation before. My old employer previous to this one went into liquidation. A speculative resumé landed in my inbox from a former colleague, he obviously not knowing that I was running the design department in this new company. It was full of claims of exactly the projects only I had worked on, including specific instances of travelling overseas to train employees. I didn't bother replying. I was in good employment, he was desperately searching for a job, so I let it go.
    Now, if I was going for the same job as that person down the line, I'd have something to say about it.
  3. r.j.s Moderator emeritus


    Mar 7, 2007
    Generally, all the work you do as an employee of a company belongs to that company. You don't own any of it.
  4. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    Did you have a contract? I don't know about every designer but any design work I have done as an employee for a company I had a contract that outlined what would happen. It usually was outlined in the termination clause or something similar.

    That being said, no contract then the two above posters are correct, that work is technically not yours and they will ensure you don't take it with you (if they are smart).
  5. MooneyFlyer macrumors 65816


    Nov 18, 2007
    I agree. I think the only way a contract helps you is if it explicitly says that you will have ownership (or license) to the work after termination. As an employer this is not something I would be eager to do.

    Corporations not only output "product" (be it art, software, hardware, etc.) but they also build, collect, and maintain large amounts of intellectual property. Generally anything devised under their roof (ie, when they are paying you) is their IP.

    It's important to recognize that the company consistently pays you some amount of money for some number of hours per week regardless of what your output is (clearly this may not be sustainable). But, you can count on it.

    Some options going forward:
    - You may be able to negotiate with the company on your way out to keep the right to some of the content though it is unlikely. It would have to be something that they do not value or is not part of their core business in which case I would question why it was being worked on in the first place. In any case, this type of thing does happen. As a matter of fact, many new companies are spun out of bigger companies with some IP that the founders (hopefully legally) took with them.
    - At your next job you might try negotiating ownership going in but be aware that, as an employer, I would be highly skeptical of the motivation. If you are the #1 (insert position here) in your field and are highly sought after the probability goes up.
    - Take the work as a freelance. In this case you [likely] will not get paid for the hourly work but will sell the end product. And, depending on the type of license you grant, you may be able to sell this to multiple end customers. This is truly betting on yourself and the swings in your income will be much more variable (hopefully positive!).

    Good luck - let us know how it ends up.
  6. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    Typically you can ask your work to allow you to use some examples for reference.
  7. TJRiver macrumors 6502


    Jan 14, 2009
  8. jecapaga macrumors 601


    Jul 1, 2007
    Southern California
    You won't need all your project files. All you need is a hi-res pdf/jpeg and use that for your stuff. I'm assuming you're talking about your portfolio. As you finish a project save a final copy to iDisk or a drive. If you leave or are laid off, expect no help which is why you should cover yourself all the time.

    I would't worry about others claiming your work after you leave as their own as files are often re-used and changed. Nothing you can do about that.
  9. AppleMatt macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2003

    Asking for advice like this on a forum is absurd, you'll only get opinions (it's your work/it's the company's work) or past experiences (well all the jobs I've had have worked like this). One might be relevant to your situation, but no-one here knows.

    First thing to do is read your employment contract. If you'd read that when you joined, you probably wouldn't be asking this as you'd either have been pleased they didn't take ownership of your work or disgusted that they did; either-way, a memorable emotion.

    Second thing to do is speak to a lawyer. Despite the bad reputation the media gives lawyers, no-one will act in your interests better than one. Not even someone on this forum.

    Sorry to sound harsh, but if you want the best result that's what you'll do.

  10. mlblacy macrumors 6502

    Sep 23, 2006
    the REAL Jersey Shore
    don't burn your bridges...

    I own my own design company now. If you were working for someone else, that work belongs to the company and to the client... and not to you. Even if you were freelance (unless you had some kind of contract that gave you ownership). I would strongly caution you not to just take the files with you (and delete them off your workstation). First, you would get a really bad rep... and that stuff travels. Second, you would likely be sued, and would lose as well (unless you had a contract that gave you rights).

    On the other side, UNLESS you were freelancing in stealth, there is nothing wrong with claiming the design was "yours" and including it in your new portfolio as an example of your work. Unfortunately many agencies these days sub out a large amount of work to compensate for their lack of staff... but they don't like to let that be known. Usually you would sign some sort of non-disclosure agreement if you were in that kind of situation...
  11. Paratel macrumors 6502


    Jan 26, 2005
    Somewhere in the US
    I videotape depositions and various things for attorneys and had a similiar question. Had a attorney do some research for me so this might help. I apologize for the crazy attachments but it's a 4 page Memorandum of Law in Tennessee.

    Attached Files:

  12. kydee6039 macrumors member

    Jul 30, 2007
    I feel I need to chime in on this one as I learned the hard way. I worked for a design firm for 9 years (senior designer / art director) and finally decided to take the leap and start my own business. On my website I showed a total of 15 jobs (about half of them from the company I worked for). I stated in the description of each job that it was done through the company I worked for crediting them.

    Long story short - I was sued by my former company and unless you have big bucks to defend the situation your **** out of luck. 6 months later now, $10,000 down the tube and a signed document stating I can no longer show any of the work done for this company and it's finally settled.

    Remember this is after 9 years of loyalty and a great relationship (they even hired me after I left as a contractor).

    This just shows you how serious this can become depending on how your employer reacts.
  13. jerryrock macrumors 6502


    Sep 11, 2007
    Amsterdam, NY
    The answer IS very simple. Unless you have a written agreement with the company stating otherwise, all of your designs are considered work product of the company who holds the Copyright.

    Section 101 of US Copyright Law covers Work for Hire.
  14. dukebound85 macrumors P6


    Jul 17, 2005
    5045 feet above sea level
    I would venture not as when you work for someone, your product is owned by them
    That is why they pay you

    Now if you take it with you without their permission and try and sell it, they could very well go after you

    Best you go ask your employer as they could very well let you use some pices for a portfolio. Its at their discretion however as they are copyright oweners
  15. Surely Guest


    Oct 27, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    How would you know if you and your former colleague were applying for the same job? Employers don't generally post lists of the applicants for jobs (at least not in my experience). Unless.... are you auditioning for a play?;)

    If it were me, as a courtesy I would have called that person and told him that he shouldn't take credit for the work that I did. That's highly unethical. There is such a thing as padding your resume, but blatantly taking credit for someone else's work is over the top, IMO. If he's stealing the credit for your work, perhaps he is stealing credit for other people's work as well.
  16. BertyBoy macrumors 6502

    Feb 1, 2009
    for a permanent employee, almost certainly not, you'd need to check with a lawyer.
    for freelance / contract, you'd check the terms of the contract. But it too, would almost certainly be a "No" unless you had specifically asked for, and obtained, intellectual property rights in the contract before starting work there.

    In the UK, we always ask for it, it's one of the key conditions (along with right to substitution and a few others) to help us avoid IR35 tax.
  17. harperjones99 macrumors 6502

    Nov 3, 2009
    Sounds like your former employers are real jerks. This is why I hate working for anyone else.
  18. covisio macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2007
    By way of explanation:
    A: I work in the UK which is a generally smaller market than North America (if not Canada)
    B: I was in a specialised area of packaging artwork and repro
    C: I keep in touch with other former colleagues
    Therefore it's very possible I would find out if I were going for the same job as one of them.

    Also, in answer to your assertion that perhaps I should have said something - maybe, but in situations like this I always think of a phrase I read somewhere once: The best revenge is to live a happy life.:cool:
  19. Surely Guest


    Oct 27, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    My motive isn't revenge- it's about fairness. It's not fair or just for someone to take credit for someone else's work. It's also not fair for you to allow that person to continue lying about their accomplishments. But, that's just my opinion. I'm not judging......:) To each their own.
  20. jasonth macrumors newbie

    Nov 21, 2009
    You were paid while you do the work as your company's employee so it follows that all those designs automatically became your company's property.

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