You are super proud of the work you did for a new design client. A couple months after you wrap up, you pop over to their website. You have a new project in the pipeline and so you want to take screenshots of your work in action for your portfolio.
When you land on their website, you start to get that upset twitch. Your contract spelled out that they were only allowed to use your work for specific purposes. And they are doing that, plus a whole lot more.
You shoot off an irritated email and quickly get a response:
I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that wasn’t okay.
Most of your clients don’t understand copyright or licensing.
And if you don’t like reading your own contract, then how can you ever expect your clients to read it? Because neither of you enjoys reading contracts, you have to teach your clients about copyright. And educate them what rights they are given over your work. I suggest you seamlessly work this into your process at three different points.
Neither you or your client enjoys reading contracts, so you have to teach your clients about copyright.
Times when you can teach your clients about copyright
At the proposal stage
The first time you can work this into your process is during the proposal stage. At this point, you can spell out what kinds of rights are included in the quoted price.
Say for example you are designing an illustration to use as a supplemental graphic for a website. In your proposal, you could say,
At the quoted price, I deliver a low-resolution file acceptable only for use on your website and social media accounts. This file will not be acceptable for printing as such; I do not give you the rights to print the illustration. You also are not allowed to use this illustration on any websites or social media accounts not owned by you. Will this cover the uses you envision?
I’ve found that this approach works well for two reasons:
- it establishes the ground rules up front, in language that everyone understands
- gives you the ability to adjust the price and deliverables if the two of you aren’t in alignment
At the contract stage
The second time you should work this in is within your contract. I like to set up contracts so that all the points of the deal the client actually cares about are on the first page. And then behind that is all the legal mumbo jumbo that is only important when a dispute arises. So the first page of your contract should cover:
- both of your contact information
- project timeline
- payment schedule
- what they can and can’t do with the deliverables
When sending deliverables
Finally, when you are wrapping up the job and sending the final files you can work a little copyright lesson in. I suggest that you send a PDF as part of the deliverables package. This PDF should include a snapshot of the deliverable plus text explaining what they can and can’t do.
Usually giving this information to your clients multiple times helps them understand their rights. Thus decreasing the likelihood that they will use things outside of the license you gave them.
And if they really don’t care, it gives you multiple documents to show just how wrong they are. And why they are acting outside the scope of their license.
What else do you do to teach your clients about copyright and what rights they have in your deliverables? Share your process in the comments.