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I’ve been doing some side hustle marketing on a very small scale. An acquaintance of mine asked me to create a logo for their new company. I created a few different versions and presented them with options. They chose their favorite and we tweaked it to their liking. I gave them their bill and said I’d give them the files upon payment. I didn’t hear anything for two weeks and saw today on their Instagram page that they unveiled a new logo. Basically the same logo I created, except someone else did it. I confronted them and they offered to pay me half to essentially keep my mouth shut but they got a “better deal” elsewhere. Of course they did, someone just copied what I already created and put no work into it. My price was VERY affordable, for the record. Anyway, should I even bother pursuing a legal case? Is it even considered plagiarism? I don’t care about the money - it’s about the principle.

My logo is the one with the transparent background. Theirs is the IG screenshot which looks like it was made in MW. enter image description here

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    Hi. Welcome to GDSE. Unfortunately, I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a legal question. Sorry about that. You should really ask your lawyer if it's worth pursuing. – Billy Kerr Jun 26 at 17:06
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    Doesn't look like plagiarism to me.. looks like outright theft. You could probably bankrupt this business given it's nature by filing suit.... but it'll cost you legal fees to do that. – Scott Jun 26 at 17:44
  • Closing this shortly because it requests legal advice. But you already have some good answers and comments. Keep all written communications with this client. Look for better clients. I'm sorry this happened OP. Good luck! – curious Jun 27 at 13:17
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I'm not a lawyer or barrister, and I don't play one on TV; hence any advice I dispense is not legal advice, and is somewhere between suspect, apocryphal and commonsense: take nothing at face value and do your own research in your locale.

I am a multi-decade graphic designer and illustrator, and as a result I've been round the roundabout on IP issues - this is not my first rodeo.

No they didn't plagiarize you - they have intentionally violated your Intellectual Property (IP) rights. They do not own copyright of any kind, as you've not granted any use rights at all, and can easily prove prior design, and you can, if you choose, pursue a court case with reasonable chances of success.

That said: it's not cheap, the process takes a lot of time, and will require you to be in court personally, losing working time, so it's often not worth it.

You will want to consult a lawyer, in your specific locale and jurisdiction, to get a sense of actual expected costs and recoverable monies - if it's clear they're making profits using the IP you created for them, you are entitled to a percentage of such, if we assume the court's finding is in your favour.

You can find sample DMCA take-down letters online easily, and send one to your client - this may scare them enough to avoid court costs - but if you do this, be prepared to immediately go to full court press in court, so prior to doing anything have that discussion with a local lawyer.

Hope this helps - sadly this stuff happens quite often - still sucks. Good Luck mate.

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Just to add to what's been posted. This is why it's very important to have a contract and to communicate through email. Emails can be tracked back.

Including a link to a DropBox for file download of a rendered PDF will not work. When doing logo design the options should be included in the email and I'd advise creating an email template similar to how others create a marking email campaign. You could even script this if you built a template in Illustrator (might release this to Github in a few months) This will insure that the client will have to send back and acknowledge which they like.

Regarding the IP this is of course IP violation. There are a few routes you could take. 1) You've already acknowledged you contacted them and they offered to settle at half and in some cases that would be deemed as knowing they did wrong. If this is in an email then that will give you more ammo in court. You could contact them an additional time given them a time deadline. If you wanted to go public with it you could, some would argue that's public shaming. 2) File the suite in civil court seeking damages. This is currently one sided and I haven't seen your communication but if it's all in written form the you have a solid case.

Two closing notes:

Contract

This is very important to have outlined in the contract and why it's always important to create a contract. This saves you on what is expected and also could help you get back time dealing with this case. If a client gripes at this then explain to them it covers both of your time and makes sure the project is outlined.

Public

Depending on how quickly you want this resolved and what you have you could ask them on social media why they've chosen to go with your logo when they haven't paid for the services. Sometimes it can be highly frowned up to do this but sometimes it brings to light what fellow designers must go through. If this is a startup that will be a very heavy blow to the company image. I wouldn't expect to ever do business with them again and they could argue back that has damaged their company so make sure what you have is very solid.

In this whole process here you will need to factor in your time. How much time do you have in this project and is it worth fighting? I say this because due to the cost of court fees, lawyer fees, etc. etc. If you contact a lawyer they want a fee, to file a case that'll be a fee, time to appear in court will be a fee. So if you've spent 10 hours designing a logo and spend 20 hours is it worth it? If you have it outlined in your contract that all legal fees are subject to paid by the client then sure. That still depends on what state you're in and if the contract is binding. In all, sorry for what you're dealing with.

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You have already got 2 fine answers. There's not much to add to them except one thing. Attacking is the best defence, so be prepared to be accused you have actively marketed intellectual property which belongs to others. There's an army of lawyers which surely are able to flip the case if you are not prepared. Get pro help!

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