Copyright Ownership for Graphic Designers – EsquireTrademarks.com

Ground Rules for Artists / Graphic Designers.

The Author Has the Power to Control Use of the Work

  • The author of the work is the owner of copyright.

    • Typically the person who fixes the expression of creativity to the medium.  (ink, paint, pixels, clay, etc.)

    • Contributes a minimal degree of original expression of creativity to the work.

    • [A] sculptor … might sit in a chair, never moving and never touching the materials, perhaps in part because he might be paralyzed or simply because the materials might be large and heavy. There are sculptors nowadays who work in huge materials, I-beams, storage tanks, things like that, that are welded together where the sculptor’s contribution is rendered entirely by the giving of instructions to workmen to put a member in a certain position and bolt it to another member and so forth. I think it is clear without question that such participation is authorship. Such carrying out of ideas of authorship is recognized as authorship under the copyright law even if the author never places his hand on the material. Fisher v. Klein, No. 86 CIV. 9522 (PNL), 1990 WL 10072477, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. June 26, 1990); 2 Patry on Copyright § 5:3
  • Unless the work is a “Work for Hire” – Then Employer Is Owner

    • Generally an employee working within the scope of employment.  

      • A W2 Employee / Not a 1099 or Freelancer
      • Worthy of discussion….
    • Signed Written Agreement stating that the work is a “Work for Hire” and the work is specially commissioned contribution to a Collective Work.

  • Unless the author signs an agreement transferring ownership.

    • The Artist / Graphic Designer / Photographer / WebDesigner has power to control the relationship using a license / assignment. 

    • Often the customer/client has no idea.  Nor does the artist.  Good opportunity to set the grounds rules. 

    • No assignment until payment. 

    • Non-payment = infringement. 

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