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Question Artwork ownership

Discussion in 'Logo Design' started by Geneva Olson, Sep 16, 2020.

  1. Geneva Olson

    Geneva Olson Member

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    if someone sends you artwork. A sketch. And you have to vectorize and/or redraw it, who owns the artwork?
     
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  2. Notarealsignguy

    Notarealsignguy Active Member

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    Not you but you don't have to give them the file that you created either.
     
  3. Geneva Olson

    Geneva Olson Member

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    Can you post that artwork on social media? As in, "look at what we did?"
     
  4. James Burke

    James Burke Being a grandpa is more fun than working

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    You might want to go through the S101 archives. This topic has been discussed ad nauseum on many levels.

    Since we live in a world of the "fiver mentality", the best policy is to have your client sign a contract as to who owns what (namely formats), and how future handling of their artwork will be conducted.

    Make sure the client fully understands the differences between the various formats. And make sure they understand what they are paying for.

    In most cases, "production files" (vectors) should remain your property. But that can get crazy when they ask for the files to be released to a third party for marketing collateral (t-shirts, etc...). That is why you need to have a signed agreement in place before you even begin their work.

    As to your "look at what we did" statement, I would simply show the client submitted rendering next to your finished artwork, and make sure to state the fact that the client created the original.

    JB
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
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  5. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    Technically the artwork is their intellectual property. However you have zero obligation to turn over any vectorized art files you created from their IP until they pay you for it.

    If we work on a sign bid and have to vectorize someone's logo as part of that bid we absolutely do bill them for the vectorizing tasks, especially if we don't win the bid to the actual sign work. No one is getting a free lunch on art conversion services.

    I would never post any sign projects on social media unless it was a project that actually sold. There is no way I'll ever give brand exposure to a company that had us draw up sketches, convert JPEG amateur junk artwork into vectors yet take the actual sign manufacturing work to another rival. Only paying customers get exposure on my company's Facebook or Twitter pages.
     
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  6. jimbug72

    jimbug72 Member

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    Yeah, if you want to post a "Look what we can do" social media post, I'd say go to the customer. Most time most folks don't mind that sort of thing but you never know, so it's best to be safe than sorry in this type of instance.

    It would be counter productive if you post it and they post negative comments or additional negative social media posts about your "unprofessionalism" or you caused them such and such grief by not asking their permission to post it
     
  7. signbrad

    signbrad Member

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    The answer to this question may depend on the artwork. Does the sketch meet the requirement for copyright protection? Many of us assume that any design we produce has copyright protection, but this is not true. The US Copyright Office sets a certain standard for originality/creativity, and if some sketch or drawing does not meet the standard, then it does not have protection as intellectual property.

    The Subway logo is an example to illustrate.
    [​IMG]

    Who owns copyright to this design? The designer? The restaurant chain? No. No one owns the copyright. It is not copyrightable. It doesn't qualify for copyright protection. It never did.

    Many logo designs, if not most, cannot be protected by copyright in the US. If you apply for a copyright registration for a design like the Subway logo you will be denied.
    In fact, Subway was denied copyright protection for this logo in 2006, when they tried to get it. They even appealed the decision but they were denied a second time.
    https://ipmall.law.unh.edu/sites/default/files/hosted_resources/CopyrightAppeals/2013/SubwayLogo.pdf

    It's true that the Subway logo is protected by trademark law. But that doesn't do the original designer any good. The original designer does not own trademark to his or her designs. Trademark is owned by the one that first uses the design in commerce to identify goods or services. Trademark law doesn't protect the designer of a mark, it protects the user of a mark.

    This is why it is important to have your design work covered by a deposit. If a design is not copyrightable, you certainly can't sue someone for infringement. You can send cease-and-desist letters to try to intimidate them into paying you something, or to try to prevent them from using the design.
    But they can simply ignore the letters.

    Many of us assume that everything we do creatively is protected—layouts, sketches, designs, etc. But much of it actually is not.
    Circular No. 33 from the US Copyright Office lists quite a few things that do not qualify for protection, and many of them are our bread and butter.
    This paragraph, for example, may surprise you:
    https://www.copyright.gov/circs/circ33.pdf

    Sometimes our sign work may contain elements that are protected by copyright. If we create an architectural rendering, for example. Or a photograph, caricature or cartoon. But the protection applies only to those elements, not to the entire layout.

    Of course, what you create on your computer does not need to be handed over to anyone that happens to demand it if they did not pay for your time. Your hard drive is your hard drive. Intellectual property may belong to someone else, but your physical files do not.

    On the subject of sketch deposits, a sign guy I knew had a sign in his shop: "No Deposit, No Return." Some customers who saw the sign may have been curious about its meaning, but every sign person that saw the sign knew exactly what he meant. ;)

    Brad in Kansas City
     
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  8. visual800

    visual800 Very Active Member

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    Great timing for this post! I am doing a sign package for a fire station in a neighboring town and they sent me a public safety shield....a damn jpeg, of course. I have already redid 75% of this shield because I dont want crap on my signage. I have informed the fire cheif, and the construction company that I will be redoing this art. This art will be MINE unless this city buys this high resolution art from me. Im going to use it for my signage and no one else gets it unless they pay for it.

    there are approx 2 more of these shields around town that other companies have done for this city and they all used the same crappy jpeg. Not my style!
     
  9. 54warrior

    54warrior Member

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    Ok... to go a little deeper... I sold graphics to a customer for their SXS off-road vehicle. They posted the installed pics online. I saved the pics from their FB posting, and put them up on my website. The fella turned around whining that he didn't give me permission to use said pics, and he should have gotten a discount for using his machine as advertising.

    Thoughts on that?
     
  10. balstestrat

    balstestrat Member

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    Take them out of your site and say sorry? Like he didn't want them to be seen... It's just a vehicle jeez.
     
  11. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    He is right! The pics are his property and you need permission to use them.
     
  12. unclebun

    unclebun Very Active Member

    I always ask for the customer to send me pics that I can put on our fb page. Usually they are proud to have their bike featured on our page.

    Kind of like the statement about vampires invited into your home from Lost Boys.

    On the other hand, if they made the fb post shareable and you shared it to your page, isn't that what fb is for? How would anything go viral if you had to ask permission to share anything?
     
  13. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Wait a minute...... it sounded to me as though the OP wants to post up what they did to improve a lousy provided picture..... kinda like a before and after. I don't think they want ownership of it, just how did I do kinda deal.

    As for taking someone's artwork/files and re-doing it for your own use in whatever capacity of a project, that would belong to you, not the end-user, but I highly doubt they're gonna wanna pay you extra, just because you have higher standards than Joe Gabip. That kinda stuff needs to be discussed up front, so they have time to make an educated decision of what t expect.

    Going through that this morning. Doing some signs for the Philly Army Corp of Engineers and they gave me bad files. I explained what's going on and they need to be cleaned up and made better. They are stopping in this afternoon to look at their results and what needs to be done in order to give them the best we can do. They already know it will cost more, but they wanna see the differences for themselves. I don't believe in blind-siding people and then hold sh!t hostage afterwards.
     
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  14. Notarealsignguy

    Notarealsignguy Active Member

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    Assuming that he wasn't just kidding around with you .....It'd be hard not to tell him to bring his **** back, tear it all off and give him the money back....
     
  15. sardocs

    sardocs Active Member

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    This thread remined me of some drama that played out here on S101 a bunch of years ago. I had designed and lettered a clients vehicles for a number of years when a new signmaker in town approached him and told him he could letter his trucks and excavators for less than I was charging. He duplicated my designs and poached my client and then called me up to say he needed my files to do the work properly. I went on the signguys web page to find he had pics of my designs he was copying. When I I mentioned it was a bit shady he came on S101 and posted this....

    https://signs101.com/threads/who-owns-the-logo.77193/
     
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  16. Gino

    Gino Premium Subscriber

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    Wow, there was a trip down memory lane. Lotsa people missing, now. Well, one thing..... at least I haven't changed in the last 10 years. :roflmao:
     
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  17. Bobby H

    Bobby H Very Active Member

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    Registered trademarks are legally as powerful as copyrights, in some respects even moreso when you get into things like merchandising. Subway not only owns the trademark in your example, but they call the shots on how the logo can be used. Any sign company contracted to use that logo in a sign project must follow their branding guidelines to the letter. For instance, the Subway logo you posted is outdated. Only the newest logo (with different Pantone colors btw) can be used on new projects. Logo alterations, such as idiotic squeezing or stretching, is not allowed.

    Going even farther, city governments have tried forcing color scheme rules and other stipulations onto national store chains only to wind up in court for charges of trademark infringement. Blockbuster Video vs City of Tempe is one old example from the 1990's. Tempe tried forcing Blockbuster to change the blue and yellow colors of its awnings. Blockbuster successfully sued Tempe over the issue.

    It's important to charge separately for tasks like vector-based logo re-creation from JPEG amateur customer provided artwork. For more involved things like vehicle wrap designs, it's crazy to design any of that stuff up front on spec. Design deposits are always a good idea in those cases.

    Even for ordinary run of the mill stuff it's important to take steps to protect your own sketches, shop drawings, etc. Many shops send sketches as PDFs. Customers don't need to see all of the specs, dimensions and other details that would go into a shop drawing. It doesn't hurt to create PDFs to block editing/import with password protection, but there are ways to get around that. It's also easy to rasterize anything in a sketch so there are no vectors to extract from a PDF. You can even contaminate the content farther with watermarks, other pixel trash or even skew the artwork a little out of scale. Make it hard for any competitors to get anything useful from your sketches.
     
  18. visual800

    visual800 Very Active Member

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    Oh the irony! I am dealing with the Army Corps of Engineers also on a project in Bham and they also sent PDF (that were jpegs) and told me thats what they send to all their vendors and no one has had any issues. This project started in february of this year TO THIS DATE i still have no art I can use. I started out having 1 contact and now 5 others are being cced on all communications. the gov is here to assist you!
     
  19. signbrad

    signbrad Member

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    I agree.
    Charging appropriately for design work cannot be over-emphasized, in my opinion.

    A few years ago, in a conversation with the owner of one of the larger ad agencies here in Kansas City, the subject of charging for artwork came up. She said, in a tactful way, that sign companies need to exhibit more professionalism regarding art, both in costing and in production. We were talking about pricing a specific job in particular——a vectorizing task that my boss charged 60 dollars for that she would have charged 300 for. She implied that design is often not taken seriously in the sign industry and that many agencies tend to use a sign shop strictly as a service bureau for end production rather than as a source of serious design work. She said there is a certain "amateurishness" that sign makers project. Her last words to me about vectorizing for cheap were "knock yourself out."

    I can't help the feeling that she was right. That we sign goobers have dug ourselves a hole that is difficult to get out of. Especially since the advent of computer-assisted design and production, there has been, it seems, a race to the bottom. And it's not just about cost, but professionalism in general.
    When I was young, it seemed that the hacks were in the minority; that there existed, among sign makers generally, a striving for a high caliber of work, and a ridicule for knock-out artists——for people who didn't care, either in the area of design or in fabrication. And though we called ourselves 'craftsmen,' or 'mechanics,' rather than fine artists, acknowledging a certain blue-collar status, there was still a pursuit of excellence that most shared.
    It seems to me that things are different, now. Low price and low quality dominate the market (am I wrong?). Sometimes, people who want to produce quality and charge appropriately are the ones who are mocked. I have even seen shop owners intentionally let mistakes go out the door, saying, "We'll fix it when it comes back." Were they trying to buy time? Were they desperately trying to avoid a missed deadline? Or worse, hoping the client wouldn't notice? Do other trades do this? Car mechanics? Plumbers? Maybe some actually do. Medical providers? That's a scary thought.

    I suspect that at least part of the reason that standards are so low these days is that pricing is so depressed. A low-priced shop can become overwhelmed with work and there is pressure to just get it out the door. My old mentor used to say, "If you are always covered up with work, you may be too cheap."
    But what explains the preponderance of poor design in our industry? Good design usually doesn't take any more time then bad design in most cases. Given a preference, and all things being equal, all of us prefer to produce good layout.
    But... if we don't understand good composition, we will always struggle with it. I believe the cause of this lack of understanding is, to a great extent, because we don't read anymore.

    Few of us are born knowing principles of good design, though some lucky ones seem to have a natural talent for good layout and composition. Also, many of us are back-watered in shops by ourselves with no chance to collaborate with others and grow. And just looking at good design doesn't always work, either. What if you look at good design but can't comprehend what makes it good? And then couple that with the fact that poor and ineffective design looks "normal" these days because it is so widespread, like when you see a misspelling often enough that the correct spelling looks odd.
    It seems to me that the way out is to read (books that explain the elements of good design, not just picture books). Having and knowing a vocabulary for design is important to be able to produce it. This was a basic premise in Mike Stevens' book, Mastering Layout.
    When he was alive, Stevens hosted seminars on layout. He explained both composition and terminology. A few others have done this as well, and a good number of persons have benefited greatly from these teachers. But for most of us, reading is the essential way to achieve excellence in our craft. Reading can allow you to "see" good composition, define what makes it good. Simply learning the terms for good design elements can help you to put them into practice routinely. And that's what we should want——to make good design a routine rather than an exception. To paraphrase Mike Stevens, good design is not something we do on special occasions, it's the mark of a professional.

    My mentor said, "If you don't take yourself seriously, no one else will."

    Ranting in Kansas City,
    Brad

    ..................

    Obviously, I went a little off-topic here.
     
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  20. Notarealsignguy

    Notarealsignguy Active Member

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    The other argument here would be is it my responsibility to set my prices at a rate that insures another person's success? If there are other people encroaching on your space at a price significantly lower than you and still profitable, then the larger problem may lie within the other person's business model or pricing structure.
    A good example is incorporating your business. For a long time you'd go to an attorney, pay them $1-2k and they'd file everything. Today, you can find services that do it for a couple hundred bucks. Are they obligated to charge more because the attorney is losing business in that arena? The irony is that those services, like bizfilings, are probably making more money than the attorneys are.
     
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