Somebody I know in the web design industry recently told me a story something like this:
They were contacted by a prospective client who wanted to move away from their current website agency.
“So you want us to build you a new website?”
“No, I have a website. I simply need you to copy it and host it on your servers.”
“OK, do you own the intellectual property rights?”
“Of course I do, I paid for the site”
“Yes, but did you also buy the rights? We’re they formally assigned to you?”
After a long pause and a bit of shouting the conversation ended abruptly.
Finding that you don’t own the rights to something you paid for can be frustrating. Imagine a peacock finding out that the brightly coloured feathers it uses to announce its presence don’t actually belong to it.
Logos and Designs
I could add to this tale of woe with ones about businesses that paid to have a logo or cartoon style mascot image created. They then find that the designer wants to charge a fee each time they use the design on a new piece of merchandising or packaging.
Stories like this are common. Businesses assume that paying for a piece of creative work means they own the rights to it. UK law says otherwise.
Because of assumptions and lack of knowledge the issue of ownership is never discussed when work is commissioned. Businesses then find themselves tied to a web design company even if they don’t get good service. Or they are faced with a stark choice of paying out more money or abandoning logos and designs that have acquired a value to their business.
Any Creative Work is Affected
Intellectual property rights for copy, photos, illustrations, designs, videos and any other creative work belong to the creators – unless they formally sign them over.
Sometimes even the creators don’t realise that this is how the law works. This causes real problems if somebody copies a design or plagiarises your content. You suddenly find that the rights aren’t yours to enforce.
Hopefully you are not using stock images without buying the rights to do so. The photo libraries are aggressive about enforcing their rights and seeking compensation, so be careful.
Even when you do things properly you are not buying exclusive rights. There is nothing to stop a competitor paying to use exactly the same image to promote their business.
If the image is to become an integral part of your brand identity then think about commissioning something original. And make sure the contract with the photographer assigns the intellectual property to you.
Avoiding problems shouldn’t be difficult. It’s a question of awareness and asking the right questions at the right time, which is always before rather than after the contract is signed.
If you need advice or help with securing the rights to important marketing assets please get in touch. We will help you put appropriate and enforceable agreements and contracts in place.