As a online graphic designer, one of the most valuable assets of your business is your creative work. This may include designs, drawings, images or any other artwork.

Below are the key legal documents that a graphic designer needs to ensure that business interests and creative work is well protected.

1. Copyright Notice

An original expression of an idea is protected by copyright once it has been written down on paper or electronically. You do not need to apply for copyright protection, however, if you are running a business, it is helpful to have a copyright notice to identify ownership.

Your copyright notice will have the following: © [Creator Name], [Year created] e.g. © LegalVision 2014

2. Privacy Policy

If you collect personal information from your clients, such as name and contact details, and if you pass this information onto any third party, obtain information from third parties, and/or use the information for direct or indirect marketing, you need a Privacy Policy.

3. Website Terms of Use

If you sell your design services, you probably have your designs and artwork on your website to attract customers. How can you protect these?

Website Terms of Use help to protect creative work on your website.

The Website Terms of Use will include:

  • a copyright notice to claim copyright in all your creative work;
  • a license to permit visitor to use your website for personal uses only;
  • a list of prohibited conduct to prevent unauthorised use of your work;
  • republishing rules, for e.g., allowing people to republish your work if you receive credit for it; and
  • limitations of liability and disclaimers, so that you are not liable for any third party content on your website.

4. Terms and Conditions

Once the client agrees to the Terms and Conditions, it is a legally binding agreement between you and the client.

The Terms and Conditions need to cover the key aspects of your relationship with the client. Well-drafted Terms and Conditions should caddress the following:

  • what fees are payable and when;
  • what and when the creative work is to be delivered;
  • how can amendments be made to the creative work and what costs are involved;
  • what are your rights in rejecting client suggestions or terminating the relationship;
  • your ownership of all creative work that is drafted;
  • any client rights for e.g. relating to use of creative work;
  • the consumer guarantees which are mandatory under the Australian Consumer Law; and
  • a limitation of liability for e.g. by capping your liability to the total amount the client paid or less; and
  • disclaimers including that you are not liable for any client mistakes or change of mind.

 Terms and Conditions should also address ownership of work.

Generally, the creator of a work owns it, and you can assign or license your work. You may choose to assign ownership of the work, which is essentially selling the right to use your work, upon receiving full payment from the client. Or, alternatively, you may wish to grant a license. This means that the client’s right to use any of the work that you created is dependent on the terms of the license which can be as broad or as narrow as you’d like it to be.

Website Terms of Use

If your business has a website, you need a Website Terms of Use. These apply to every website visitor, protect your website and limit your liability for your website. The Terms claim your copyright and intellectual property rights, and set out permissible and prohibited uses of your website, including that competitors cannot use your website information.

To conclude

As a graphic designer, you must ensure that your creative work is adequately protected. It would be a considerable detriment to your business if people could use your images and artwork from your website for their commercial purposes, or if a client were to take your draft work and use it without full payment. If you are setting up a website with the intention of selling designing services, you should contact an experienced business lawyer to help you draft legal documents to ensure that your rights and creative work are well protected.

Ursula Hogben

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