I was shocked when I recently came across a graphic design internship posting that had the following note in small characters at the bottom:

"By submitting a design for consideration in this talent search, you agree as follows:

  • All submissions will be owned (and may be used freely) by us and will not be returned.
  • You agree to assign and hereby assign all rights, title and interests in and to your design. For clarity, you will not display, publish, or otherwise make public your design (including posting any materials to social media sites) without our permission.
  • We are not obligated to pay you any amount, grant you an interview and/or position of employment, or provide any other consideration in connection with your design.
  • You represent and warrant that your submitted design is your own fully original creation, does not violate or infringe the rights of anyone else, has not been entered in any previous competition, and was not created in the course of employment or as an independent contractor for anyone else."

It seems totally unfair to me that a company would request such things. Submitting a design in the hope of getting an interview does not justify that a company would want to keep it and use it as theirs. I would appreciate your professional opinion on this.

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    – bemdesign
    May 13, 2015 at 0:05
  • Legal probably yes. They say that before you participate. Sounds like a scam probably yes too, but we don't have all the data or basis of the participation/competition.
    – Rafael
    May 13, 2015 at 0:43
  • 1
    It's legal, but completely ridiculous. Consider it a fair warning that that is certainly not a place you would want to work at.
    – DA01
    May 13, 2015 at 2:28
  • 1
    FYI, this is called 'spec work' and is considered bad: aiga.org/position-spec-work
    – DA01
    May 13, 2015 at 2:29
  • can you give a reference (URL) to the posting?
    – meduz
    May 19, 2015 at 18:29

2 Answers 2


It is reasonable that if they request you to do some work, they expect to own that work. What they are basically stating is that any work done for them is under a work-for-hire agreement and it is no different than if you were an employee. Many, many, many companies hire contract professionals under these types of agreement. It is neither unusual nor illegal.

What is completely unethical and unreasonable is the request for work based on a possible return.

You should not have to work on speculation of any return. Any ethical company would hire a designer based on their portfolio of past work which displays skills the company is seeking. No quality employer would be asking for you to work for free in order to possibly gain a position.

I am not a lawyer however, I believe what is being asked is perfectly legal -- just a really horrible proposal for the designer. And anyone falling for it, will quickly find they are not valued very highly by the company.

Note... this is basically how all the "design contest" web sites operate. It's horrible for the artists.


If you don't like the rules of the game, don't play. I agree with you that it is pretty scummy. But legality is determined by lawyers, laws, and lawsuits. As others have noted, this falls under "spec" work and any organization promoting or practicing such practices is giving a clear signal of how they do not really value design work.

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