Copyright - some questions

  peabody 09:44 07 Mar 2006

In a previous thread click here
Forum Editor responded with some extremely useful and important information. Can I ask a further question or two for some clarification/opinion?

Q: Where a webdesigner was asked to build a site and was paid for the work, where graphic images were created does the copyright for said images still reside with the webdesigner? If so, does the webdesigner have the right to remove any such images? If the webdesigner is subsequently blocked from controlling the site (say, by change of FTP username/password) but the customer continues to use content that is the property of the webdesigner against his/her wishes, what recourse does the webdesigner have?

Q: If, for example, a flattened .gif image was produced from an intermediate graphic software, such as Fireworks which produces a .png 'layered' image, would the .png file copyright remain with the web-designer even if the copyright for the .gif belonged to the customer? Or are they one and the same image?

This is a big and important subject and I would like to see further reading in, perhaps, PC Advisor magazine.

  cycoze 21:07 07 Mar 2006

As i see it if you create an image the copyright is obviously yours, however if you then use that image incorporated into a website layout that your selling to someone, your giving them the right to use it and publish it online.

You would still retain the copyright to the image, but in fairness a week or a year or two later if they no longer require your services you can hardly ask them to remove the image, you sold it to them as part of the layout, you havent loaned it to them.

If however you were not paid or the contract broken in some way you might have some recourse.

Some companies may ask you to give them sole rights to the image so you could not use it again, but then you would charge accordingly, probably more so in the case of Logo`s.

Regarding formats, a working file is just that, it can be altered easily, a flattened image is just the end product, unless the working file is altered it is the same image.

Anyway thats just my thoughts on it, someone might know the law better and put you on the right track.

  peabody 21:14 07 Mar 2006

Thanks, Cycoze. But would the webdesigner have sold the copyright to their images just because somebody paid for the work? I'm not arguing with you - just looking at things in another light. Any other views?

  PurplePenny 21:26 07 Mar 2006

It depends what the contract says. If the work was done as part of the terms of the contract then the copyright rests with the person who commissioned the work.

  Forum Editor 23:27 07 Mar 2006

whether they're photographic or graphic in nature, is automatically vested in the person who created them, whether or not they were created as part of a commission.

Which means that people who design web sites for other people have the copyright in any graphics created as part of the design service (or previously created as stock items), and they have the copyright in photographic images if they created them.

What usually happens - and this is certainly the way I work with clients - is that a generic copyright licence is granted to the client, once the site is signed off (and paid for) and published to the server which is to be its home. I send my clients a standard email, granting them full copyright in the content of their site as published by me. In most cases I write some of the text content, so I grant them the copyright in that as well.

Once that's happened it's the end of the story as far as I'm concerned, unless I'm retained to take care of ongoing site maintenance and content management - in which case I word the original licence email so it includes future images etc.

It all works pretty smoothly.

There is an alternative, and that's the one alluded to by Penny. You can write a copyright release into the terms of the original site-design agreement, so that copyright automatically passes to the commissioning client at a pre-specified point - usually when the final contract payment is received by you, the designer.

Whatever course you adopt, it's absolutely essential to get it down in writing, before you even start work. The road to ruin is littered with the corpses of web designers who failed to pay enough attention to this detail, only to find that an unscrupulous client suddenly pulls the financial plug, having first snitched all the graphics and photo-images. Hours or days of work go down the drain that way; life is hard enough, without all that hassle.

  peabody 09:02 08 Mar 2006

As a part-time, semi-professional web-designer - and I bet there are thousands of us around - this is an area I have never paid attention to and neither has any client. And yet it is evidently vital to both parties to get this sorted up front.

But it does confirm my initial thoughts - that, in the absence of any contract, terms, conditions etc that specify the situation re copyright, then copyright for any images (or textual content) that the web-designer creates remains with the designer.

But in future, I will certainly take FE's advice and get the matter clarified in writing up front.

Thanks, all, for your interest.

  Djohn 20:23 08 Mar 2006

Interesting question and answers. Something we all need to keep in mind if doing work for others. Thanks to cycoze as well as FE & PurplePenny for your very comprehensive reply. [Just book marking for future ref.]

  Forum Editor 23:45 08 Mar 2006

of any contractual relationship, and can make or mar a successful business deal. Wedding photography is a classic example - lots of people make the assumption that they'll 'own' the rights to their own wedding photos, but unless they have reached a prior agreement with the photographer that will not be the case - copyright will remain with the photographer.

Merely paying someone to create an 'original work' does not in itself imply any change in the copyright - that's something that must be specifically addressed prior to the commencement of the contract; otherwise there can be problems.

  bigzosso 11:24 09 Mar 2006

Is there an online downloadable/purchaseable terms and conditions contract for website designers? I am just starting out in this business and forwarned is forarmed as they say. It sounds like good advice that I would not have thought of.

Can anyone advise or is it get your own solicitor to draw one up?

  Forum Editor 20:01 09 Mar 2006

I'm not aware of anything that's available online, although there might be something somewhere. I don't think you'll need a solicitor to draw up contract terms, you can do it yourself with a bit of help from us.

Things to think about are:-

Cost - make sure that you quote a total figure before you start, and get the client's agreement in writing - an email will do.

Specify the work that you are going to do - don't make assumptions about what the client is expecting. If the client is to provide text and/or images make sure that you say this in your quotation, and make it clear that anything coming from the client must be with you before you start work on the site, otherwise you'll be kept hanging around for days, waiting for the client to send you stuff - trust me on this, it will happen.

Give some thought to how you're going to control the amount of input the client has. That might sound odd, but unless you find a way of doing it you can end up making small changes to the site for weeks after it's finished - and the client will use that as an excuse for not paying your final account. There must be a time limit set on the number of changes a client can make within your quoted cost. The way I do it is to put the site on a sub domain on my server, so it can be viewed by the client as development progresses. I encourage the client to keep looking at the emerging design, and to make comments/requests for changes. When I feel that my work on the site is finished I say to the client "I am going to publish the finished site to your domain name on (name a day); please let me know if there are any last-minute tweaks you would like me to make".

Note the use of two phrases - 'the finished site' and 'last-minute tweaks'. Both are deliberately calculated to give the client the very definite impression that his/her time for making changes is coming to an end. You'll find it works well, and if you include in your written agreement the term: "Any changes made to the site at your request after publication will be chargeable at the following rate: (then state your charges)" you'll be covered for all eventualities. You might think that all this is unnecessary, and most of the time it is, but there will always be that one client who wants to string things out, and all the while you'll be waiting for your money.

Include a statement that copyright in all graphic and text content created by you remains vested in you, and will pass to the client on receipt of the final payment.

You'll have your own terms, or variations on mine - I've only given you the bare bones. The main thing to keep in mind is that a web site is quite a difficult thing to define in advance, and clients often have a different expectation of what's included in your price - try to reaasure yourself that you are both singing from the same hymn sheet before you start.

  peabody 21:24 10 Mar 2006

... and thanks again for everybody's interest. There is probably some very sound advice in this thread that will help us all.

This thread is now locked and can not be replied to.

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