Logo Creation Copyright Question

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by RobbieS, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. RobbieS macrumors member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2008
    #1
    I have recently been employed to create a company logo for a restaurant opening in west virginia. I created 15 logos for the owner to choose from, and he choose one. I sent him all .jpegs to his email with "SAMPLE" written across them, but stupidly I gave him the copies of the logos on printed paper as well (without sample written on them). At this point now, he is backing out because he doesn't want to pay the $300 I charged for the designs. I know I made several mistakes at this point- I should have made a contract, I should have asked for money up front, etc. etc. But now, at this point- how should I fix my mistakes. I have a pretty good feeling he will copy them, and make one of them his logo, and I do not want to get screwed. It did take a lot of time and effort to create them.
    All jokes aside, can I go and copyright the logos, even though I don't own the company name, therefore being able to sue if it comes down to it? If so, how do I go about that? Generally speaking, how much does that cost? I did some reading online, but its hard to find any information based on the current circumstances. I appreciate any and all help.
     
  2. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2004
    #2
    As soon as they're created, they're copyrighted to you and unless there's a contract stipulating that the copyright and ownership passes to the client, they have no rights on the design.
     
  3. eddiejames2 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2008
    #3
    What if you work for a company where you do a ton of design work. How does that play into the copy. law.
     
  4. Blue Velvet Moderator emeritus

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2004
    #4

    If you do it on their time, their payroll, their hardware, their apps... it's all theirs.
     
  5. jerryrock macrumors 6502

    jerryrock

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Location:
    Amsterdam, NY
    #5
    It is considered "Works made for hire" and is the property of the company, not the individual.

    http://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ9.html
     
  6. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030

    Macky-Mac

    Joined:
    May 18, 2004
    #6
    yes you can register the copyright for the artwork you did. It's the art work you're copyrighting, not their trade name.

    More info including about fees; US copyright office
     
  7. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040

    ezekielrage_99

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #7
    I also thought that you would own intellectual copyright on the logo? Please bare in mind that I live in Australia and copyright does vary from country to country.
     
  8. PixelFactory macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2003
    Location:
    Chicago
    #8
    As Blue Velvet said, your artwork was copyrighted the instance you created it. The only problem you could have is if you are a minor. Either way, I would send a polite email letting the client know that all the artwork you have shown them is yours and any use of it would infringe on your copyright. Remember this is business, you developed a product and he has to pay to use it. One of three things can happen. First, they pay you and everyone is happy. Second, they finds another designer and creates a completely different logo. Third, they copy your artwork. Only then should you seek legal advice. $300 isn't a lot of money to go to court over so most lawyers won't touch it. You would spend more money on the lawyer than you would make.
     
  9. jerryrock macrumors 6502

    jerryrock

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Location:
    Amsterdam, NY
    #9
    If you wish to pursue the case you have 3 months to register your artwork with the US Copyright Office (assuming you are in the US).

    You cannot initiate legal action unless the artwork is registered with the Copyright Office.
     
  10. ktbubster macrumors 6502a

    ktbubster

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2007
    Location:
    US
    #10
    I'd assume the basic copyright/patent thing woudl work too for this situation.

    You can also always make copies of your work and files, sign and send them to yourself in a registered mail package envelope. Just DON'T open it, and if you see he stole your work down the line you can prove you had the design before him or the other designers in court.
     
  11. Jaffa Cake macrumors Core

    Jaffa Cake

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    The City of Culture, Englandshire
    #11
    You'll generally find in employment contracts that there's a clause stating that any work you do for the company becomes their intellectual property. Otherwise, I suppose there'd be nothing to stop a designer leaving a company and then claiming money each time a logo (for example) he created while at said company is used.

    As you say though, this sort of stuff does vary from country to country – we assume the OP is from the US but this might not be the case
     
  12. iGav macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2002
    #12
    Or in the case of an agency/consultancy, copyright will almost certainly usually be required to be assigned to said agency/consultancy's client upon completion.

    Which of course leads to a somewhat interesting area of debate regarding the rights, or lack thereof, of using said work for self-promotional purposes by either the agency/consultancy or their designer responsible for the work in the first place without infringement.

    There was however, a fairly recent interesting case regarding Dr Martens, with which I'm sure all (UK at least) designers are aware, relating to the issue of the copyright of a Dr Marten/AirWair logo, which very much established a precedent that;

    "Freelance creative suppliers should not assume they own the copyright in their work just because the Copyright Act says that the owner of the copyright is the author."

    However, until RobbieS's client actually infringes of course...
     
  13. Jaffa Cake macrumors Core

    Jaffa Cake

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2004
    Location:
    The City of Culture, Englandshire
    #13
    Indeed, that's usually the case – the humble designer himself doesn't get a sniff of copyright either way.
     
  14. jerryrock macrumors 6502

    jerryrock

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Location:
    Amsterdam, NY
    #14
    This is why a contract is so important to a Graphic Designer.

    http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/standard-agreement

    With my last freelance job, I retained the rights to display the work I did in my portfolio. Aside from that, the company owns the rights.
     
  15. iGav macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2002
    #15
    It's certainly easier to negotiate such an agreement if you're contracted on a project directly by the client, but over recent years, I've begun to notice that an increasing number of designers who are leaving agencies/consultancies are experiencing difficulties in using work they created for their respective agency/consultancy, on their own websites, or in their books even when that work is properly accredited.
     
  16. wordmunger macrumors 603

    wordmunger

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2003
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #16
    Seems to me this is really about going to small claims court and getting paid for the work you've done.

    If you want to pursue this as a violation of copyright law you'll need to register the copyright of the logos first, then press charges under copyright law, hire a lawyer, etc. [yes, they're technically copyrighted in your name as soon as they're created, but you can't press charges without registering]

    Probably simpler just to go to small claims court.
     
  17. jerryrock macrumors 6502

    jerryrock

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2007
    Location:
    Amsterdam, NY
    #17
    Unfortunately, small claims court is not going to process the claim without a copyright registration either.
     
  18. wordmunger macrumors 603

    wordmunger

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2003
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #18
    I seriously doubt that. The freelancer did the work, and the client didn't pay. That's not a copyright case, it's a financial dispute. It's not like the freelancer did the work and then some other person unrelated to the client stole it and used it for themselves.
     
  19. iGav macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2002
    #19
    Without a contract though, it's going to be difficult to establish the intent or interpretation of either party with regards to the work and the subsequent payment of monies.

    Unless there is documented evidence, specifically stating that the $300 fee is payable upon completion regardless of usage, then the proposed defendant will simply argue that his interpretation of the (non-binding) agreement was that the fee only applied if the final logo was of suitable quality that was fit for use, which he'll undoubtedly deny that it was.

    The defendants case would be further strengthened, should he for example commission another logo, from another designer and use that.

    Regarding the issue of pursuing a violation of copyright, until his client actually infringes, there is absolutely nothing that RobbieS can do.
     
  20. MacBoobsPro macrumors 603

    MacBoobsPro

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    #20
    Remain polite with the client. Reiterate that if they back out they can not use any of the artwork under any circumstances as you still own them as you have not been paid.

    If it turns out they go ahead and use them anyway because it was such a small fee (not worth chasing unfortunately) keep badgering them for a while so they know you know what they have done if they still don't pay up put it down as a lesson learned and from now on ALWAYS use contracts.

    I've learned the hard way too. There are a lot of dickheads out there :(
     

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