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I recently got a project to design logo design, stationery, website, brand identity for a startup company. I want to seek answers from a professional brand designer: is it compulsory to include a legal document at the final package to the customer?

If yes, if I want to publish online the works I did, should I include a license for usage (or is there a better term sounds like the client has a full right) or a copyright transfer document?

If I have given out the copyright transfer document to the client, will I still have the right to publish it online as the portfolio?

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No, the client should not receive a legal document with the final package. That should come before the job, in the contract, or even the quote.

Legal rules are an absolutely crucial part of any professional agreement and should be clearly communicated upfront, not afterwards.

It is a very good practice to have a fixed set of Terms and Conditions that, by default, allow you to retain rights to publish the work as part of your portfolio. Even in those cases that you sold off the full copyright (which is a non-default situation you should charge for additionally by a decent margin, by the way), you should have a clause that retains you the display rights.

Include these Terms and Conditions with all your quotes and contracts, and reiterate in the contract text that your clients agree to them fully. This is important to legally protect you form your client (and vice versa) in case the relationship goes sour.

By default, my clients do not receive full copyright, just a license to use my work as-is. This means they cannot alter the work (or have it altered by others) to their own insights. I have seen clients drastically alter the colours of a logo I made for them after I delivered the logo. Those are cases you want to avoid at all times.

If you do choose to sell off the full copyrights to the design, it might be wise to spell that out in the contract text.

This is far from all you should arrange for in a good set of T&C. Lucian raises a couple good points in their answer, and there's even more things. My own T&C are two full A4 pages of close-set 6-point text, amounting to seventeen articles with sub-articles.

Once you have an outline of your T&C, have a legal advisor check them for you so you know you are allowed to bind your customers by them.


So, I'm too late?

That's all good and well, but doesn't help your current situation. For that, I would draw up those terms and conditions, or at least an abridged version—just make sure with a legal advisor that they are in fact legal. Then, show those to your client, explaining in short what they contain and why you are asking them to sign the document. It's very much possible that, under your jurisdiction, they need to sign a document like that to have the copyrights transferred to them. Most copyright laws protect the creator by default even if they sold their work.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, nor do I aspire to be. Nothing in this answer shall be considered legal advice and no attorney-client relationship has been established. If you actually have legal problems, contact a lawyer.

  • Thank you so much for your explaination, Vincent! However, I already started the work 1 week ago under an Agreement, which I only listed in details what I will give to them as a package at the end, signed by both parties. So they already selected the best version of the draft and now I am planning ahead what legal document I should include in the final package. Since we haven't made any discussion about the copyright matters and I wonder if all the professional logo designer would by DEFAULT give a copyright transfer document included in the final package. – Marta Reboli Sep 29 '17 at 13:51
  • This may depend on your local laws I guess. If you are in their employ, then in many legislations most legal rights are transferred by default to the employer, but exceptions may exist. – mathreadler Sep 29 '17 at 20:15
  • @Vincent♦ are there ready-to-use versions for Terms and Conditions? Because, you know, writing such documents requires some legal knowledge. – ammar Oct 5 '17 at 3:11
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    @ammarx There should be, different versions float around the internet. Be doubly warned, though: 1. some phrasings might be valid in one jurisdiction and not the other; 2. ironically, the text of T&C is copyrighted itself. So try and find one that is available rights-free and adapt it to your needs instead of just copying someone else's. – Vincent Oct 5 '17 at 8:25
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The client should be given full copyright for all items on delivery and the copyright transfer should become valid after payment has been made in full (not before). The client should not be given copyright for any rejected proposals or drafts (which should remain your property and which you can re-use for other clients).

Then, as to you wish to publish the work online for self promotion, I would check this with the client first. If they agree, this should be made explicit on the contract (assuming you will have a written contract with the client).

Some clients will want full confidentiality, meaning you cannot post the work as self promotion. If confidentiality was not requested already by your client, chances are they will not mind if you post the work.

  • According to the laws of which country? Citations would also be nice. – mathreadler Sep 29 '17 at 20:22
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We do NOT transfer copyright to the client. Truth be known the clients are better served filing a Trademark.

That said the few times we were we did transfer the copyright were a big mistake for both our studio and the client.

  • This is horrible advice. I'm not a lawyer, but if an artist does not transfer ownership of a work, then he retains sole ownership of it. That means that he could legally revoke a client from using the work at any time, which is definitely not what any client ever wants. – Ullallulloo Sep 4 at 5:17
  • In addition, your suggestion to just apply for a trademark instead is nonsensical. Setting aside that trademarks and copyrights largely protect different things and that trademarks generally offer less protection, 15 U.S.C. § 1051(a)(3)(A) requires the applicant of the trademark to "be the owner of the mark sought to be registered," so that's not even a legal possibility even if it was a valid substitute. – Ullallulloo Sep 4 at 5:18

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