Intellectual property, confidentiality and transfer of rights.

Today we have some common questions from newbie freelancers about copyright, confidentiality and transfer of rights. This is a pain but as professional freelance designers we must invest time in our own education.

Tricky topics!

“I’m in a rap band and I’ve designed a logo for it. And my doubt is whether I should register my design or not, just in case I could have any problems in the future.”

Law protects the artwork since its creation. Registry is not necessary, although it’s good evidence that you’re the author of the artwork.

So let’s  point out 2 different issues:

1.- Registering an intellectual property (for example your logo or any other artwork), this paperwork works as proof that by that time you had created that piece. If anybody claim the ownership of your piece, he/she must provide a proof prior to your date of registry. A proof can be another registration or the publication in any tangible medium, for example a magazine.

2.- Registering a trademark, this a more elaborated process and must be handle by professionals that can advice you the best approach. Before registering your brand they will check that there is no incompatibilities, for example another company with a very similar name within the same industry.

There is a quick way to see if your future brand name has potential or not, check if the domain name is free. If it’s free and there is no Google records about your new company name, you probably won’t have any issue.

This is a complex subject and it’s your responsibility to be informed according to your local laws. Here you can find a general guide about how to defend your intellectual property.

“My client ask me to sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement). It’s fair? Do you have any contract you can share?.”

In my terms of service page I state that I don’t offer confidentiality by default since my portfolio is my only marketing tool to promote my services. If somebody ask me to sign a NDA, depending on my workload and how appealing is the job, I request a fee that can vary from 150% to 200% my standard rate

Since the quote depends on the terms, the client should state the need for a NDA upfront, but sometimes the client does it when the order is already finished. I always charge a downpayment, so at this point the client has 3 choices:

  1. He pays the extra confidentiality fee: I sign the NDA and deliver the files.
  2. He doesn’t agree but he pays the remaining payment: I don’t sign the NDA but I deliver the designs.
  3. He doesn’t agree and refuse to pay the remaining payment: I warm him that he would lose all rights over the designs and the down payment, I keep the files to sell it as stock images or for personal projects, I never resell the designs as custom work.

This is not set in stone, if he’s a good client and he’s easy going I can make exceptions but confidentiality as an habit is the death of your career. We all live from exposure.

“A confidentiality contract and a copyright transfer, are they both the same thing?.”

No, they aren’t, a NDA is a document where you commit to not to share any specific info (the artwork itself of or any spec of the project or company) while a transfer of rights is a document where you state that in exchange of money you give permission to the client to make use of the transferred rights, this transfer of rights can be total or partial.

In my case, whenever a client ask a contract I provide it. I always transfer all rights to the client with 1 exception: the right of authorship so confidentiality is included eventually.  This way I can display the designs in my portfolio and social networks, of course I can’t make any money out of it (i.e: selling t-shirts or mugs).

Sergio Ordoñez Suanez
[email protected]

Hi there, I'm webmaster, designer and digital content creator of everything you see at SOSFactory. I love sharing my limited knowledge as more experienced designers did when I was a newbie.

  • morcio
    Posted at 19:06h, 09 February Reply

    Hola Sergio!
    hace mucho que no leeia tus blogs… estavas un poco perdido en esas vacaciones! :D… pero bueno… te deseo muchos exitos en todos tus proyectos y enserio muchas gracias por cada tutorial… he aprendido demaciado!


  • Troyi2007
    Posted at 02:36h, 10 February Reply

    Sergio estoy tratando de hacer el tutorial de Mascot Design III Coloring y no me trabaja la herramienta de history brush tool. Que puedo estar haciendo mal…

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 10:21h, 10 February Reply

    [lang_en]Hello Morcio, you are welcome 🙂

    Troyi, be sure you check the small square at the left of the history state you are interested in. Anyway this is the matter of the next tutorial.


    [lang_es]Hola Morcio, bienvenido y muchas gracias 🙂

    Troyi, fíjate que estás marcando el estado correcto en la paleta historia (el recuadro a la izquierda de cada estado). De todas maneras este será el tema del próximo tutorial.


  • Diana
    Posted at 06:25h, 11 February Reply

    Hola, Sergio, qué bueno que ya has regresado 🙂 por cierto intenté descargar el archivo con los contratos pero uno está dañado el de NDA and transfer of rights de todas maneras debe ser este supongo


  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 09:58h, 11 February Reply

    Hola Diana, volví a comprobar los archivos, no me da ningún problema. A ver si alguien más tiene problemas.

    Ese que enlazas es un NDA básico, no dice nada de la transferencia de los derechos, pero seguro que encuentras alguno por Google.


  • Darell V
    Posted at 11:11h, 11 February Reply

    do you have a tutorial here about coloring your lineart starting from scratch?? as in you start from black and white…i really dont know how to start!

    oh and thanks for the lineart videos! those really helped me to get started!

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 11:33h, 11 February Reply

      Darell, just the previous post is about this.

  • Diana
    Posted at 22:42h, 18 February Reply

    Sergi, tengo una duda, ¿qué hacer cuando alguien pregunta si el diseño que uno ha hecho es modificable,y le pertenezca al cliente, cobrarle un impuesto? y si es así, ¿Para este caso se usa el documento transfer of rights?


  • Diana
    Posted at 01:00h, 19 February Reply

    Gracias por tu respuesta, no sé porque piden un diseño para “modificarlo” luego si uno hace todos los cambios que necesitan, usando esquemas de colores adecuados, etc..Es como el caso del diseño que hiciste para Linerider 😛


  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 00:53h, 19 February Reply

    Hola Diana, si transfieres todos los derechos, transfieres todos los derechos.

    Si quieres que nadie modifique tu diseño deberias especificarlo en el contrato aunque dificilmente el cliente aceptara esta clausula… (modo Troll on) estan deseando sacar al artista que tienen dentro y “mejorar” en 5 minutos lo que tu has hecho con horas de esfuerzo y dedicacion (modo Troll off).


  • Sagnik
    Posted at 23:21h, 19 February Reply

    Hi Sergio,

    I’ve been following your blog for a loooong time now. It’s more than 2 years. I love the tips & tutorials you give to us. For me, I’m a web designer & I love to do illustrations. I just bought an Intuous 3, and practising on it.

    I had a question, how do you draw crisp clear lines? My lines turn out to be grainy/jagged. I tried various brushes in Corel Painter that came with the bundle. Do you use different software or is it practice?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 09:48h, 20 February Reply

      Hi Sagnik, thanks a lot 🙂

      The key is using high resolution canvas, I use around 7000x7000px in Photoshop.

  • Enzo
    Posted at 05:30h, 25 February Reply

    Hola Sergio: primero te agradezco por compartir tus conocimientos…Quisiera saber si entre Flash e illustrator encuentras diferencias para ilustrar ya que estoy muy acostumbrado al manejo de flash y no me sea necesario aprender ilustrator siendo q se puedan lograr los mismos resultados

  • Mikael Cubillan
    Posted at 04:07h, 02 March Reply

    hello sergio… can I ask too?

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 08:58h, 02 March Reply

    Sure Mikael, just email me.

  • Diana
    Posted at 00:45h, 05 March Reply

    Hola, Sergio, no sé si será una pregunta medio tonta 😛 pero para firmar un documento asi ¿uno debe solo escribir el nombre o hacer la firma digital con una tableta?


  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 14:25h, 06 March Reply

    Hola Diana, lo ideal sería firmarlo de puño y letra y enviarlo por correo, pero la firma digital también vale.


  • Diana
    Posted at 16:43h, 06 March Reply

    Hola, Sergio, gracias por tu respuesta. Algo que olvidé en mi pregunta fue sobre un documento que se llama Work For Hire y alguien me pidió eso, según leí, con el se transfieren los derechos del diseño, ¿es recomendable firmar eso y se cobra también?


  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 19:22h, 08 March Reply

    Hola Diana, este documento es muy común, normalmente lo usan las empresas para dejar claro al trabajador que es un encargo puntual y que no conlleva ninguna otra responsabilidad como subsidio por desempleo, baja por enfermedad y esas cosas… vamos que no eres parte de la empresa.

    Además veo que añade los apartados de cesión de derechos y el típico apartado diciendo que todo lo que haces es original.

    Lo de cobrar o no cobrar por algo así es muy personal, yo no cobraría.


  • Enzo
    Posted at 22:17h, 09 March Reply

    Quisiera saber si entre Flash e illustrator encuentras diferencias para ilustrar ya que estoy muy acostumbrado al manejo de flash y no me sea necesario aprender ilustrator siendo q se puedan lograr los mismos resultados

  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 09:24h, 10 March Reply

    Hola Enzo, no soy un experto en ninguno pero sí que hay diferencias, Flash es principalmente para animar e Illustrator es principalmente para ilustrar.

    Con ambos puedes hacer ambas cosas, pero cada uno es más potente en lo suyo.


  • ivan
    Posted at 18:50h, 21 June Reply

    Hola sergio, realmente un trabajo estupendo el que has realizado con tu sitio, tiene muy buen contenido y de calidad, quisiera saber si puedo robarme algunas imagenes de tu sitio para crear un banner y ponerlo en mi sitio web, lo que quiero hacer es crear una referenci apara los usuarios, que conoscan que tambien hay sitios de calidad y en español.


    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 00:15h, 22 June Reply

      Hola Iván, si lo que quieres es crear un banner para enlazar a este blog entonces no hay problema.


  • kakashi
    Posted at 20:03h, 23 June Reply

    i was wondering how would i resize a picture (make it bigger), without the picture becoming blur, or stretch out

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 19:17h, 30 June Reply

      Hi Kakashi, you can´t do that. Whenever you enlarge a picture you loose sharpness.

  • Diana
    Posted at 21:44h, 30 June Reply

    hey kakashi Sergio´s right but you can´t do that with shapes, using the shape layers option 🙂

  • Diana
    Posted at 21:46h, 30 June Reply

    oops sorry I mean you CAN resize anythign but images as shapes with “shape layers”

  • Diana
    Posted at 21:24h, 14 August Reply

    Hello, Sergio
    ok, I´ll try to ask this in english..:P
    For design or illustration work, is right to work with a laptop or a desktop and how many RAM memory it is necesary?


  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 10:12h, 15 August Reply

    Hello Diana, thanks for trying 🙂

    I switched to a laptop around 1-2 years ago and I hope I had done it sooner.

    I have an Asus computer with 4gb (though Vista 32bits just can use 3gb), it was around 1.000€ and it works smooth. Latelly I´m having memory problems with Photoshop CS5 but there is lot of people having these issues, I bet it´s because this version is not too efficient.

    If you need a relative portability (since the battery works for a few hours you always depends on an electricity source), don´t do heavy tasks (3d, video edition…) and can spend some extra money I completely suggest going for it.

    Another advantage is the calm, forget the noisy fans!

  • Diana
    Posted at 04:31h, 16 August Reply

    Thanks, Sergio!

    I´m going to upgrade my old computer and I was thinking in a laptop, because I don´t have too much space, lot of people tell me “buy a Mac” or “build your own PC”,or get a Dell computer, the first one is too expensive,

    I guess I´ll be able to do the same work (plus 3d, I hope so) with a 4gb desktop computer, if you recommend me any brand it would be nice 🙂


  • Sergio Ordonez
    Posted at 09:41h, 16 August Reply

    Hi Diana,

    I wouldn´t look for a brand, I would look for the best configuration at the lowest price. Mac computers are expensive.

  • Pete
    Posted at 20:56h, 01 September Reply

    Hello there. I got kinda noobie question, I got the basic idea, just want to make sure.

    In a simple way; how to make your designs print-ready? I mean, what sizes and resolution I should set when working on CD covers, posters, t-shirt designs etc… ?

    Thanks upfront

    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 00:14h, 03 September Reply

      Hi Pete,

      you must use the real size at 300dpi for the best quality.

  • aylum
    Posted at 03:06h, 16 March Reply

    Sergio…are you are design a mascot for this it’s very similar with your design for'm afraid your design has plagiarize/copy from unresponsible designer.very embarassing it’s happen from my country Indonesia.
    i hope no more plagiarize case from Indonesia, i’m
    very love your blog.your struggling until like now give me a lot inspirations for newbie like’s why i’m written are the best mascot designer Sergio!


    • Sergio Ordonez
      Posted at 17:46h, 16 March Reply

      Another epic ripoff, thanks a lot for taking the taking to comment mate, it’s much appreciated. I will contact to my client so he will take whatever actions he likes.

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How to become a Professional Mascot Designer?

I created some masterclasses with all my Photoshop tips and tricks about digital inking and digital coloring for mascot design. With my technique and some practice you can also make a living from the characters you imagine.