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Right to show work in portfolio

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Jeremy SchultzRight to show work in portfolio
by on Jul 25, 2008 at 4:59:12 am

My basic question is whether an ex-employer can rescind my right to show work in my portfolio. I worked at the company from 2002-2005 with no non-compete or work-for-hire agreement that I know of. In 2004 they discussed purchasing a domain name, I was in on the meeting but wasn't tasked with doing the buying. In 2005 I left the company and was explicitly given authorization to use my work in my portfolio.

A few months later I saw the domain was available, assumed they didn't want it and purchased it myself. I didn't do anything with it other than place my name on it. A few months after they I guess the company decided they wanted it, saw I had it and threatened a lawsuit because I acted on a trade secret, which is debatable. I was happy to give them the domain but they took my buying it personally and rescinded portfolio rights anyway.

I would like to reintroduce this work in my portfolio. Do I have the right to do so? A designer who has seen a lawsuit go down about a similar situation said she learned the law considers an artist's work to be his/her resume and cannot be locked down in order to harm a person's ability to make a living.


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Mark SuszkoRe: Right to show work in portfolio
by on Jul 25, 2008 at 2:27:20 pm

Why did you buy the domain name they wanted? I bet that if you had put the portfolio material on any other domain, say, your own personal web site, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

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Jeremy SchultzRe: Right to show work in portfolio
by on Jul 25, 2008 at 2:38:21 pm

I didn't put anything on the domain, I just forwarded to my own personal website. I bought it because it was still available after all this time and I thought if they didn't want it, I might as well buy it and see if I can use it. It got no traffic so I was fine with handing it over.

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Sacha ThomasRe: Right to show work in portfolio
by on Feb 18, 2011 at 8:47:55 pm

It definitely puts your motives in question from their point of view. I am by NO means saying that you had some sort of negative or vengeful motive, but I have to wonder what you would have done with that domain if it doesn't relate directly to your own company. You could have played hardball with them (holding out and/or offering it to a competitor) and it sounds like they were prepared for that and acted on that assumption.
It doesn't sound like the kind of situation I would want to be involved with unless I intended to play hardball with someone for profit or other motives.

At J-School, I seem to remember being told that photographers always retain limited rights which only include use in your portfolio, unless they sign something that says otherwise. This would seem to follow the "part of your resume" approach mentioned by others. As long as you don't negatively affect your ex-employers business or bottom line, and you make it clear that folks are looking at work IN YOUR PORTFOLIO, I think you are OK. I am going to ask HR at my employer to see if they have any ideas for me.

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