I'm doing a new website for a business and it's going to involve some original graphics: a large drawing that will get used for various background elements, and two medium-sized looping Flash or GIF animations that will be used on a splash screen and a product page, respectively. I've already completed a lot of the coding backend, but now that I'm up to the graphics, I'm trying to work out what terms I should set with the client.

They are paying me at an hourly rate, as an employee, and I was wondering if I should charge extra for the rights to the images I create, but I don't know if being an employee makes the rights company property (again, NZ, not US.).

I've had a look at similar questions on here, and formed some consensus of good general practice, but my situation differs by one critical point: I am actually working for the client in question as an employee, rather than contracting as a designer (I interviewed for a workshop/manufacturing position, but when they saw some web work on my CV they took me on to build them a new website instead, as they were in dire need of an update.)

The hourly rate they're giving me is slightly more than my current qualifications/experience (i.e: basically zilch) would otherwise justify, so I don't want to stiff them too much by charging heaps - but, as others have said in the questions I've found, I don't want to undercut other people in the industry either. I also don't know what will happen RE: copyright.

If it helps: I'm living/working in New Zealand, so some of the relevant legalities may differ from the US-based terms discussed in the other posts.

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    I think it will depend on what the contract you signed with them when you got employed says. In my case, for example, everything I do during working hours belongs to the company. I'm still the author, but the copyright is theirs.
    – Yisela
    Jul 15, 2013 at 23:55
  • That tallies pretty well with the other answers I've seen on the same topic, and you're NZ-based too so I imagine it's pretty similar across the board. In that case, I may have made a big deal about nothing. ^^; I'm really quite okay with just doing the graphical work as part of my normal duties, and I'm happy with my pay - I'm just terrified of shafting other people in the design field by doing it for less than whatever the industry standard is. But if that's how it works for employees, it may be a non-issue anyway. Thanks for the info! :) Jul 16, 2013 at 0:05
  • Well, I'm not sure if it's the same in every company. But in any case, probably the best thing you can do is ask them directly. I edited the question title to better reflect the problem and cleaned some of the comments. Feel free to add anything you think pertinent!
    – Yisela
    Jul 16, 2013 at 1:18
  • They're paying you an hourly rate as an employee? NZ could very well be different legally than the US here, but in the US, you often work hourly rates in the design field and you're still considered a non-employee contractor.
    – Eric
    Jul 18, 2013 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


My U.S. opinion... based on U.S. work experience. Things could possibly be different in N.Z.....

They are paying me at an hourly rate, as an employee,

Then they own the work. Under a standard work-for-hire agreements, which all "employees" are, they own everything you create for them. And that means everything. If you do something at home and then use it in a project for them, it's theirs. If two years ago you created an illustration and then decide to use it in their projects, you are giving the work to them.

That being posted, if you, for example, create stock illustrations and are selling those through another outlet on your own. It is not out of line to charge the company the same fee anyone else can purchase your stock illustration for. In fact, in this case the best practice is to purchase the image (for the company) the same way anyone else would purchase the image. This allows you to define that legal rights you are allowing which are commonly spelled out on stock image sites. Essentially, in this case, treat your artwork as if you didn't create it and are merely an employee searching and purchasing images.

However it's a fine line. If you aren't otherwise selling your personal items, they have no intrinsic value, therefore you may have difficulty justifying any cost whatsoever. And simply supplying an image to the company does NOT allow you to retain any rights to the image. The company must agree to any legal restrictions before they can be enforced. And you can not agree to your own legal terms on behalf of the company, obviously, due to a conflict of interests.

  • It's definitely different in the UK, so it may well be different in NZ. In the UK, copyright is an inalienable right of the author, and if I use a work not made for the company in a company project, I retain the copyright to my work. I have effectively licensed the company to use it. They can't stop me using my work elsewhere. However they retain the copyright of their finished product, and could stop me reproducing that to advertise the use/endorsement of my work. Jul 17, 2013 at 6:21
  • However, most contracts of employment stipulate that work done for the company becomes theirs. If I do work which results in a patent, my name will go on the patent (kudos to me) but they own it and will benefit from it (income to them). Jul 17, 2013 at 6:27

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