Who Owns the Artwork?

by Best Seller 17 replies
In addition to my background in book publishing, sales, and marketing, I also worked in print advertising sales (both newspaper and yellow page directories) for several years. What these industries have in common is that they all produce artwork for their clients as part of their overall service offerings.

The artwork policy with regard to copyright ownership varied with each company I worked for. Some of them believed that, once their clients paid for and published a creative work, they owned it and could reuse it wherever and whenever they chose to at their discretion. Others believed that any artwork they created for a client belonged to the creator--not the client--and could only be reused with their permission at an additional charge.

I'm speaking about this here because there are so many Internet marketers producing ebooks for their businesses nowadays, and I want to make sure you understand the artwork policies of whomever you're dealing with to produce your book covers and interiors for you. It's a conversation you should always have upfront, and you need to make sure you're reading through your artwork and publishing contracts ahead of time before you ever enter into an agreement with anyone.

Having been on both sides of this coin--being both the service provider and the paying client at various times in the past--it is my opinion that the copyright for a creative belongs to the paying client, and all the high-resolution artwork should be returned to that client upon receipt of payment. I have many reasons for this that I'm happy to elaborate on here if asked.

What are your personal thoughts on it? In your opinion, who owns the artwork? And why? (If there are any graphic designers on this site, I realize this conversation may get a little heated.)
#offline marketing #advertising #artwork #book publishing #copyright #owns #sales
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  • Profile picture of the author savidge4
    This is not in any way shape or form about opinion... "I think" or "I believe" gets you no where in a court. When I personally create artwork for clients.. they get ownership of that artwork - as in a legal document stating so. IF you have artwork done and it is used in say the Yellow pages.. unless they have consented copyright.. the image IS NOT yours.

    Copyright is pretty cut and dry.. you created it, or you have permission, or copyright has been give to you... anything else, it is not yours to use.

    Originally Posted by Best Seller View Post

    In addition to my background in book publishing, sales, and marketing, I also worked in print advertising sales (both newspaper and yellow page directories) for several years. What these industries have in common is that they all produce artwork for their clients as part of their overall service offerings.

    The artwork policy with regard to copyright ownership varied with each company I worked for. Some of them believed that, once their clients paid for and published a creative work, they owned it and could reuse it wherever and whenever they chose to at their discretion. Others believed that any artwork they created for a client belonged to the creator--not the client--and could only be reused with their permission at an additional charge.

    I'm speaking about this here because there are so many Internet marketers producing ebooks for their businesses nowadays, and I want to make sure you understand the artwork policies of whomever you're dealing with to produce your book covers and interiors for you. It's a conversation you should always have upfront, and you need to make sure you're reading through your artwork and publishing contracts ahead of time before you ever enter into an agreement with anyone.

    Having been on both sides of this coin--being both the service provider and the paying client at various times in the past--it is my opinion that the copyright for a creative belongs to the paying client, and all the high-resolution artwork should be returned to that client upon receipt of payment. I have many reasons for this that I'm happy to elaborate on here if asked.

    What are your personal thoughts on it? In your opinion, who owns the artwork? And why? (If there are any graphic designers on this site, I realize this conversation may get a little heated.)
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    • Profile picture of the author Best Seller
      Originally Posted by savidge4 View Post

      This is not in any way shape or form about opinion... "I think" or "I believe" gets you no where in a court. When I personally create artwork for clients.. they get ownership of that artwork - as in a legal document stating so. IF you have artwork done and it is used in say the Yellow pages.. unless they have consented copyright.. the image IS NOT yours.

      Copyright is pretty cut and dry.. you created it, or you have permission, or copyright has been give to you... anything else, it is not yours to use.
      No, this is not cut and dried in this case. Each company has different contracts in place to determine who will end up with the copyright ownership at the end of it. This is why it's critical to review those contracts ahead of time.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joshua Young
    I agree with you that it belongs to the paying client. I have been on both sides of this as well.
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    • Profile picture of the author Best Seller
      Originally Posted by Joshua Young View Post

      I agree with you that it belongs to the paying client. I have been on both sides of this as well.
      Unfortunately, not all graphic designers (or corporations) agree with us. I've learned to always read the fine print, always have the conversation upfront.
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  • Profile picture of the author Tony MC
    Strange that with only two options as to who owns copyright this is one of the biggest disagreements seen in the advetising world. I suppose there could be more than two options if an employee of a company produced artwork then does the employee own it or does his employer or the client.
    As Best Seller says, it all depends on the fine print. Just a pity that in many cases that fine print is not as easily available as the artwork. If it was, I don't suppose Getty Images would make so much money from lawsuits, or the threat of them, as it does.
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    • Profile picture of the author savidge4
      Originally Posted by Tony MC View Post

      Strange that with only two options as to who owns copyright this is one of the biggest disagreements seen in the advetising world. I suppose there could be more than two options if an employee of a company produced artwork then does the employee own it or does his employer or the client.
      As Best Seller says, it all depends on the fine print. Just a pity that in many cases that fine print is not as easily available as the artwork. If it was, I don't suppose Getty Images would make so much money from lawsuits, or the threat of them, as it does.
      Employer - Employee with no prior arrangement otherwise.. its the EMPLOYERS every time.

      Independent Contractor - its about yours ( Independent Contractor ) every time EXCEPT if there is an instance of "Made for Hire" or "Work for Hire" ( try reading this to get a better understanding - https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ09.pdf ) The one kinda catch all element of this is b 4 - "as a supplementary work, " If you are providing artwork only.. this one gets you. If you are providing a meme as an example.. and YOU the creator of the artwork implements all elements of the image and message, this would not be "Supplemental"

      Basically guys this is law.. as straight forward as law gets.. there is simply no I suppose or I guess in any of this.

      All I can say is this... If you are one that is providing artwork.. you should have legal documents that state your intentions in terms of Copyright. Be it releasing granting a period.. for a single publication whatever it is. IF you are signing a contract.. you need to look and see if there is a "Work for Hire" clause read over the contract for any other mention of copyright and ownership. Its All about Due Diligence.
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    • Profile picture of the author Best Seller
      Originally Posted by Tony MC View Post

      ...if an employee of a company produced artwork then does the employee own it or does his employer or the client.
      The employer owns it in this case because the employee is acting as an agent of the employer.
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