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I was hired as a freelancer to do some work for a company. I made a design that I love which included some of the company's data within it. I asked to put it on my portfolio and they got very defensive and angry about their data right off the bat and we no longer work together. I updated the design to not include ANY of their data or anything referring to them as I love the design and I want to showcase it on my portfolio site that I am working on.

I would really like for them not to use my design for any future items, but I'm not sure if I am legally allowed to.

This is the text in my contract:

a. Inventions Assignment.  Company owns all right, title and interest (including patent rights, copyright rights, trade secret rights, mask work rights, trademark rights, sui generis database rights and all other intellectual and industrial property rights of any sort throughout the world) relating to any and all inventions (whether or not patentable), technologies, works of authorship, software, mask works, designs, know-how, ideas, data and other information and work products that are made, conceived, reduced to practice or obtained, in whole or in part, by Consultant, and that arise out of the Services or that are based on or otherwise reflect any Proprietary Information (as defined below) (collectively, Inventions). Consultant will promptly provide and fully disclose all Inventions to Company. All Inventions are works made for hire to the extent allowed by law and, in addition, Consultant agrees to make and does hereby make all assignments necessary to accomplish the foregoing ownership. Consultant shall assist Company, at Company's expense, to further evidence, confirm, record and perfect such assignments, and to perfect, obtain, maintain, enforce, and defend any rights assigned. Consultant hereby irrevocably designates and appoints Company and its officers as its agents and attorneys-in- fact (coupled with an interest), with full power of substitution, to act for and in Consultant's behalf to execute and file any document and to do all other lawfully permitted acts to further the foregoing with the same legal force and effect as if executed by Consultant.

Thoughts?

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    When you start asking designers to read your legal contract its probably the time to hire an attorney. Is this even about Graphic Design or were you designing some sort of product? – Ryan Jul 11 '16 at 20:02
  • You can sign away your rights. But i wouldnt since it makes it harder for you to sell in future. Take some local standard graphic designer contract as base. – joojaa Jul 11 '16 at 21:01
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    Maybe try asking here law.stackexchange.com – Manly Jul 11 '16 at 21:10
  • If you have a portfolio web site, you could make one section password protected. Submit the password to the ones you'd want to show the site to. It probably won't be 'legal' but at least you make an effort not to leave it lying around on the web. And hopefully they'll never know. :) – HaraldCFS Jul 14 '16 at 9:25
  • @HaraldCFS: In fact that may be a legally crucial step, since copyright is about distribution – see my answer. – Wrzlprmft Aug 11 '16 at 7:53
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Unless there is some loophole in that contract, you signed over your copyright. However, copyright is about distribution and similar actions. Thus, a crucial point here is what you do with your portfolio.

If you have those files on your computer and show them to a potential client (for free), you are not doing anything to which copyright applies. (However, you may already breach the contract by having those files on your computer in the first place – I cannot comment on that.) On the other hand, if you make the files publicly available on the Internet, you distribute them and copyright applies.

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It looks like you have signed over the copyright rights to the company in question.

All Inventions are works made for hire to the extent allowed by law

In the United States (and similarly in other jurisdictions) any "work for hire", which automatically applies in some situations but can (as you have here) be agreed to in contract, essentially hands all copyright rights to the entity serving as an employer (as opposed to the original author).

Some relevant information on "work for hire":

If that is the case then the company is within their rights to prevent you from showing the work in your portfolio.

I would suggest you try and argue your case with the company in question and contact a legal professional for sound legal advice.


This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer. If you require legal advice you should contact a legal professional.

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