Do you sell the use of your designs but keep the copyright?

Posted on: June 25th, 2012

I went to an interesting Designer Breakfast the other morning, called A Penny for Your Thoughts. The discussion centred on whether designers are selling themselves short by settling for straight fees instead of keeping the copyright and negotiating licences for selling the use of their designs.

1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act

One of the panel members, Susan Griggs, was instrumental in the successful lobby to change UK law back in 1988 with the introduction of the 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. As a result, it’s now normal for photographers and illustrators to keep copyright in their work, control its use and the fees it can earn. She wanted to know why designers don’t do the same.

You own the copyright so don’t hand it over

Posted on: June 7th, 2012

It surprises me that a number of fellow freelancers say in their terms and conditions that the copyright remains theirs until the client has paid them, at which point the copyright is owned by the client.

If you are self employed, the copyright of something you have created, whether it’s a photograph, a design or a piece of copy, is always yours unless the client decides they want to own it – in which case they will need to pay you for the ownership.

But only if you agree to grant them the copyright. You don’t have to. A photographer I know will very rarely agree to sign over the copyright of the work he has created, no matter how large a fee the client is prepared to pay.

It’s the law

In the UK, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 means that copyright of the work we create remains our intellectual property right.