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Copyright question

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keith vickers
Copyright question
on Sep 25, 2013 at 12:59:44 pm

Im not sure where to post this but as I am an Illustrator user I will post it here.

I have a question about intellectual property.

I have been paid to create some characters for a children's book.
What type of copyright should I give to the client.
I think that basically they should have the copyright to the characters which still leaves the characters as my intellectual property - which I can use in show reels and stuff but not use to make money.

Basically the client has paid for the work and so I think the copyright should belong to them..can any wise member help me out here.

My business partner is worried that if the book takes off and becomes very successful then we will not get any royalties from the characters. As an example he gave me SGT Peppers Beatles album cover. The guy who designed it rec'd a one off payment and the cover has gone on to be a great success.

I personally don't think we have a choice but to hand over copyright as the client has paid for the work after all.
I could do with a little advice on this.



I have been doing some more research and it looks like licensing the work instead of handing over copyright is the way to go...

Any thoughts guys?

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Jonathan Ziegler
Re: Copyright question
on Sep 26, 2013 at 7:44:48 pm

First: not a lawyer, but I'll share my experience and understanding. Speak to a lawyer about all of these items - the money you spend now could save you thousands in the future. Also, there are likely things I simply don't know about your situation which could have an impact (again, a lawyer is your best bet).

Okay, couple questions first:

1) do you have an agreement with the client that specifies who gets copyright? How about some type of licensing?

Copyright goes to the creator of the characters (that's you) unless your agreement states otherwise. Most common is the "work for hire" agreement wherein you agree to give up copyright in exchange for wages. WFH is only for employees - it don't count if you're hired as an independent contractor. I've seen numerous contracts that try to force the work-for-hire wording, but it won't hold up in court unless they can prove you were their employee (ie: with W2s and such) and they paid you a salary. Personally, unless I'm hired as an employee, I won't agree to any work for hire wording, though I will provide licensing wording which has the same effect and allows me to maintain my ownership of whatever I do.

2) If you don't have an agreement, make the client sign one. Need one? Go here:

You should never work without a contract or agreement. Trust me. If you have a solid agreement, the client won't mind putting that into writing. Clients who fight you about it may be more trouble than they're worth.

3) Were these existing characters you are being paid to develop visually from a description or from their sketches? If so, that COULD be a derivative work and you definitely will need an agreement that states who had the originals and who retains copyright for the characters when done. Again, talk to a lawyer - it's not as pricey as you might think - just ask them. Besides, you'll know for the future. too.

Save early. Save often.

Jonathan Ziegler

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