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   Who owns copyright—company or client?
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   Author  Topic: Who owns copyright—company or client?  (Read 1029 times)
rexchang
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Who owns copyright—company or client?
« on: Jan 3rd, 2007, 9:25pm »
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Hi, I'm a graphic designer and my business partner and I both left the same design studio (we'll call it Studio X) to start our own. Listed below are points needed to establish an answer.
 
1. On our website, we show work for Company XYZ that we designed while we were employed at Studio X.
 
2. On our website, this work is clearly attributed as work that was done at Studio X.
 
3. Company XYZ, for whom this work was done, negotiated a buyout of rights associated with the project.
 
4. On the back cover of the work reads ©XYZ IP, LP.
 
5. We have written permission to display the work on our website from Company XYZ as examples of previous work experience.
 
We have been sent a cease and desist email from Studio X's President. (not from their attorney). In the email, Studio X's President states that "The portfolio items you are addressing were done at Studio X while you were employees of Studio X. Therefore the intellectual copyright belongs to Studio X. Any permission to showcase Studio X work needs to come from me not a Studio X client." He has asked that this work be taken down from our website.
 
Given the points listed above, who owns the intellectual copyright? Are we allowed to showcase work from Company XYZ? Can Studio X force us to take down work done for Company XYZ?
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Lyza
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Re: Who owns copyright—company or client?
« Reply #1 on: Jan 3rd, 2007, 9:41pm »
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I am not an attorney but it is very possible that the rights to the underlying artwork do still lie with Studio X giving them the right to deny your use.  I would suggest that you contact an attorney to discuss the exact details of the work and how to resolve these difficulties.
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Lyza L. Sandgren, President/CEO
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North Amer. Rep for WebTMS TM Mgmt System
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JSonnabend
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Re: Who owns copyright—company or client?
« Reply #2 on: Jan 4th, 2007, 7:37am »
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Quote:
3. Company XYZ, for whom this work was done, negotiated a buyout of rights associated with the project.
 
4. On the back cover of the work reads ©XYZ IP, LP.
 
5. We have written permission to display the work on our website from Company XYZ as examples of previous work experience.

On the other hand, these facts may indicate that XYZ has sufficient rights to grant permission to the OP to use the works as he's done.  Much depends on exactly what #3 really means.
 
- Jeff
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SonnabendLaw
Intellectual Property and Technology Law
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JSonnabend@SonnabendLaw.com
rexchang
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Re: Who owns copyright—company or client?
« Reply #3 on: Jan 4th, 2007, 11:38am »
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Hi all, thanks for your response so far. Below is the language used on the client's contract for buyout:
 
"Studio X retains ownership of all artwork created or manipulated by Studio X
unless the word “buyout” appears next to the item on this estimate. Studio X artwork may not be reproduced in any fashion without written approval from Studio X."
 
It seems to me that ownership of the artwork is forfeited when buyout is negotiated.
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Isaac
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Re: Who owns copyright—company or client?
« Reply #4 on: Jan 4th, 2007, 1:29pm »
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on Jan 4th, 2007, 11:38am, rexchang wrote:
"Studio X retains ownership of all artwork created or manipulated by Studio X
unless the word “buyout” appears next to the item on this estimate. Studio X artwork may not be reproduced in any fashion without written approval from Studio X."
 
It seems to me that ownership of the artwork is forfeited when buyout is negotiated.

 
If there aren't any other words explaining what "buyout" means, then I'd suggest that the contract is a bit ambigous on what happens if "buyout" actually does appear next to an item.   Under copyright law, a transfer of rights requires a signed writing.  
 
But even if the wording here is ambiguous and there has been no effective transfer, it is still possible that XYZ possess enough rights under a license theory to give permission to the artists.  Apparently XYZ has at least some rights/license to display the artwork.
 
In any event, you're probably at least approaching the point of posting too many details in a public forum.
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Isaac
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