30 Jul 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.
“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:
- He pays the extra confidentiality fee: I sign the NDA and deliver the files.
- He doesn’t agree but he pays the remaining payment: I don’t sign the NDA but I deliver the designs.
- 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).