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I have always respected graphic artists and web designers for their ability to create, design and bring to life images from their imagination. Graphic artists can work in-house for a publishing or marketing company, per project as a freelancer or as part of a business specialising in providing graphic art and web design services for others. Irrespective of where you work, there are some legal considerations that every graphic artist and web designer should know.

1. When You Work for Money, Have a Contract With Your Client.

When you create something for your client in exchange for payment, you will have a contractual relationship. Although verbal contracts are valid and enforceable, it’s always better to write your terms down. A basic contract or client agreement for graphic artists and web designers would include the following:

  • The name of the parties involved;
  • The scope of the project or work you were engaged to do;
  • How and when will you be paid;
  • What happens if your client fails to pay you or if you fail to deliver the work or project;
  • What happens to the intellectual property that you create;
  • How to resolve complaints and disputes; and
  • Limitation of your liability.

Many of the problems my friends face include clients paying or delaying payments, clients coming back for amendments after completion of the project, and clients complaining about the work even if the work is consistent with the brief.

A good contract will assist in preventing these problems by clarifying with the client at the outset the scope of the project, the amount of amendments included in the project, and your right to obtain payment. If a problem does arise, a good contract will provide for a complaints and dispute procedure, which should assist in resolving the dispute quickly and hopefully without the need for court involvement.

2. Be Aware of Your IP rights and the IP Rights of Others

Your Copyright

Copyright gives the author of original work exclusive rights to use and exploit their creation. If you create original logos or websites, as the author, you are entitled to the copyright attached to these works. At the conclusion of the project or after payment you have to either assign (transfer ownership) or license (give permission to use) your IP rights to your clients, because they pay you to create these works. The conditions of an IP assignment or a license are something that you need to set out in your client agreement or contract. This may include your client’s permission for you to use images you created for them in your website portfolio.

Others’ Copyright

If in creating graphics and images you use other people’s photos, designs or graphics, you must be aware that the creators of these items have rights. You should ensure that before downloading and using any of these items, that you have permission from the creator to use these items or have paid the license to use them. It’s important not to infringe another artist’s copyright, not only as a sign of respect to your colleagues but to avoid needless spending defending a copyright infringement claim.

Trade Marks

A trade mark is any sign used by a trader to distinguish their goods and services from the goods and services of other traders. You are likely to have been (or will be) engaged to create a logo, brand or trade mark for a client. When you do, you should let your clients know whether or not you provide trade mark availability searches. If not, you should let your clients know that it is probably a good idea to conduct or engage a trade mark professional to perform an availability search. This will increase your client’s understanding about trade mark registration and adds value to the service you provide them. It also assists in ensuring that your client will be able to use the logo or branding that you created and designed for them

3. Include Legal Content on Your Website

As a graphic artist or a web designer, you understand the importance of a great website that represents your business to your clients and customers. As you know, a good website needs to have more than an amazing look and feel. It also needs good content which not only includes information about the business but also about how its visitors should use the website.

A website’s terms of use is important because it sets out its purpose and provides visitors with guidance on how to use the website and what they can or cannot do with the information you provide. For example, if you have a portfolio of previous works on your site, your terms of use should clearly indicate that these works are on the website as examples and should not be illegally downloaded or copied.

When creating and designing websites for others, you can add value to your services by letting your clients know the importance of website terms of use.

Key Takeaways

As a graphic artist or a website designer, you will conduct your business better and add value to your services if you:

  • Think about your contractual relationship with your clients;
  • Are aware of yours and others’ intellectual property rights; and
  • Educate your client about their intellectual property rights and the importance of website terms of use.

Importantly, if you have any questions – ask! You can get in touch with our intellectual property lawyers on 1300 544 755.


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