Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
One of the ongoing issues for anyone who designs signs is the question of who owns the design. So often the client will say they don’t want or need a logo, yet once the sign is up and they’re getting great compliments about it, they decide they want to use that design on all their advertising.
At that point, they see the design is already having been done and all you have to do is “send the file over by email.” At that point, trying to explain that the design has value and belongs to you can be difficult.
The best way to prevent this situation is to make it clear very early in the process that designs are the property of the designer and are protected by copyright law unless they are released to the client by a specific agreement. It’s not enough to verbally explain this, because customer memories are known to fade. It’s best to state it in black and white on your drawings.
Larry Elliott, Elliott Design, McLemoresville, TN, takes no chances with this. He includes statements regarding the ownership of designs and copyright statement on his drawings and invoices. It’s also on his About Us page on his website.
“I’ve worked on it several times over the years,“ says Larry, “and have tried to make it firm without being offensive. But sometimes you have to tell it like it is or certain customers just don’t get the message. It has saved me a lot of time by making it clear that designs are not owned unless they are purchased and the copyright is transferred to the customer.”
Click here to download Larry’s forms and see the text he uses to explain the ownership of the design.
When the customer buys the design, Larry uses another form that transfers ownership to the customer. It’s part of his approach to making it clear who owns the design and when. If the customer realizes later that they should be using the design on all their marketing, they already know that the design is not theirs until they buy it.
Trade Secret 41: Getting Paid for All of Your Designs featured a great way to make the cost of such designs clear from the outset. Robin and David MacDonald, Avila Signs, Arroyo Grande, California, explain from the beginning what the cost would be should they decide to buy the design later for other use. It’s noted on the order and the invoice. That eliminates any confusion later, when the customer realizes that they should be using this great design for all their advertising.
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