Protecting your work

Every artistic creation that you originate is, at the moment you create it and draw or write it down, protected by copyright (there are exceptions – see the article Who Owns the Copyright?) You don’t have to register anything for this to happen in the UK and US (although some countries do have slightly different policies on it so check with your local Intellectual Property government office). The international symbol, the ‘c’ in a circle should be put next to any work with the year and your name or company, ie. (c)2011 Eldamar ltd. This lets the world know that it belongs to you.

But it can still happen, you come across another company using a logo like yours or using your strapline or text from an article. This is what’s called ‘passing off’. The law sides with the party that can prove that they got there first. This is why songwriters protect their songs (both words and music) and authors protect their manuscripts by some method that will prove the origination date in a court of law. This is often done by sending a copy of the work to oneself by registered post, or by keeping a copy in a bank safe or other legal body (an annual subscription is required for this).

Logos, use of colours and straplines can be protected in a different way by registering them. Every logo used commercially is obviously a trademark and every logo can have TM in superscript applied next to it to notify others that the logo is in use as a trademark. There is no legal obligation attached to the TM mark. It does nothing except notify others that the logo is in use. Registering a logo as a trademark is different. This is what gives a logo value as it is protected by law in every territory and category it is registered in. There are many rules to abide by. Many logos can not be registered if they are already in common usage or involve certain superlatives. Costs can be anything from £250 to more than £16000 depending on categories and territories the logo is registered in.

Once registered, the logo is accompanied by the R in a circle device. It is of course illegal to use the (R) symbol if it has not been registered. Registering happens only through your government’s Intellectual Property Office (in the UK this was previously known as the Patent Office). An agent or solicitor can process the registration on your behalf but get advice directly from your country’s Intellectual Property Office first to learn the procedure as they can often advise without you having to spend a large amount of money only to find your application is unsuitable.

The UK Intellectual Property Office is a great resource where you explore registrations as well a other forms of protection such as registered designs (for product designs) and patents (for inventions) as well as trademarks.

 

Call us today on +44(0)1865 779944 to discuss how we can turn your expertise into a brand or create a book with selling power.

Turn your Blog into a book:
www.blogtobook.co.uk 

Book Ayd to speak at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.sunmakers.co.uk
www.aydinstone.com

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Who owns the copyright?

When someone commissions someone else to do work for them, who ‘owns’ the finished work? Surely if I pay a designer, photographer or some other artisan to do work for me, the finished product is mine, isn’t it? The answer is probably not.

Actual copyright remains with the creator according to the copyright legislation ‘Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988‘ which states that the individual or collective that authored the work will be the exclusive owner of the work. However, if a work is produced as part of normal employment (ie. not supplier or freelance commission) then it will automatically belong to the company who hired the individual. So if you commissioned a freelance designer or a design agency to design you a brochure, the copyright of the design belongs to the designer or the company employing them.

So what exactly have you paid for? You have paid for a licence to use the created artwork in accordance with the designer’s licensing agreement. Most designers don’t really give this much thought though so you should always ask the questions before work begins. Standard procedure (as with Eldamar) is that all designs include full licence for unrestricted exclusive use forever or until the client’s company goes out of business. Photographers are usually clearer on these issues as to what you can and can’t do with the photographs they’ve taken and often have a clear ‘rights management’ policy. That’s why your wedding photographer won’t ever give you the negatives.

So with our brochure example, let’s say it contains shapes, colours and text arranged by the designer and a location map that you wanted on the back to show where your offices are. Let’s say it’s a printed brochure that’s been designed in layout software like QuarkXpress or InDesign with a collage on the front that the designer created in Photoshop. The designer has also given you a print price but you want to use you favourite printer so the designer sends you a CD and you’ve gone ahead and got 5000 copies printed.

What out of all of this do you own? You own the 5000 physical copies to do with what you like, you’ve paid for the printing and the right to print the design. You don’t own the designer’s CD. What happens if you want to change the centre spread of the brochure into a folder? You have a member of staff who, although not quite a designer, knows a bit of QuarkXpress and could easily re-jigg the design. Even though you may still have the CD with the QuarkXpress files on that you gave to the printer, it does not belong to you and unless the designer actively gave you permission, you must return to them to make any changes to the artwork. You have no rights to have the layered Photoshop file for the collage either. Even the map, which the designer drew based on your scrappy drawing can’t be used by you for another purpose unless you were given the right to do so.

Should this worry you? Not if you get this rights issue cleared up before you begin. Some people do get agitated that they don’t ‘own’ the thing they’ve paid for. It’s actually nothing new and we all should be familiar with how the law works with regards to artistic creations. When you buy a CD album of music, you own the bit of plastic but not the data on it. You bought the right to play the music in private, not to re-sell it, or copy it, change it or broadcast it. If you really wanted to own it you would have to pay an awful lot more than £10.99, probably hundreds of thousands of pounds.

So can you buy the copyright off the designer? Yes. Designers may have fees allowing this. Be careful with designers who claim to simply hand over the copyright. This is possibly not legally binding. The sale of copyright over to the client or third party, even for no fee may require contracts to be drawn up, preferably by solicitors for the copyright assignment to be legal. Even if the copyright is sold, the moral rights for the designer to be identified as the creator of the work still belongs to the designer and cannot be revoked. There’s usually no need to actually own the design, even if it is your logo. An exclusive unlimited licence is enough.

For more information here is a factsheet on UK copyright law from the UK copyright service. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 can be read here. Another good resource is The UK Intellectual Property Office (formally the Patent Office).

 

Call us today on +44(0)1865 779944 to discuss how we can turn your expertise into a brand or create a book with selling power.

Turn your Blog into a book:
www.blogtobook.co.uk 

Book Ayd to speak at your event.
For more interesting info see:

www.sunmakers.co.uk
www.aydinstone.com