Being a good designer, unfortunately, means being professionally protective of your works of art using a graphic design contract or agreement templates. In a perfect world, applying for a design copyright for every original piece you make wouldn’t be necessary – and we could all be honest with each other.
However, that’s not the world we live in.
These days, design copyright laws are put in place for a good reason. There will always be someone in the shadows, looking to take credit for your work.
We’re here to make sure the process of creating your design copyright and integrating it with your freelance graphic design contract template is as smooth as possible to help protect your work, and get you back in the studio – doing what you do best.
Since 1978, copyrights for the U.S. have been automatic, meaning you don’t need to register your design rights to copyright it.
However, to protect your work, you’ll need to apply for copyright protection by filling out the copyright registration for your specific design piece. For instance, if you’re copyrighting a sculpture, you’ll need to use Form VA, which stands for visual arts.
You can register online here.
However, before you dive into the paperwork, it’s important to understand how design copyright works and how to copyright a design properly.
While it seems easy enough to go ahead and apply for copyright for design rights, your design needs to cover some basic requirements.
First: your design needs to be represented within some tangible object. So, if you created a new shoe design under copyright clothing design rights, you’ll need to copyright the shoes themselves. Once this happens, the design will be copyrighted through the shoes.
Secondly: Your design needs to be completely original. This doesn’t include throwing glitter on someone else’s shoe design and calling it your own.
Once your item is copyrighted, you’ll have the rights to sell, market and reproduce your design/product. If you wish, you could also offer licenses to businesses to sell the product for you.
And, big bonus:
Many copyright owners will charge for these licenses.
Once you’re in this position, you can start using invoices (such as Bonsai’s fast-pay invoices) to send to these businesses who just love your design.
If you create something original, it’s protected by the law through intellectual property rights. So, if you draw a picture, create a character, write a song, that creation is your intellectual property – until, of course, you sell ownership rights to someone else.
If you’re an employee, make sure you know what to include in your freelance contract to outline your intellectual rights to your work.
Intellectual property can also be licensed out to others if you wish to sell it.
Copyright: Copyright laws for art and design is typically used for literary and artistic works. This covers creative works of expression that have been created into a tangible medium.
Patent: These are used to protect inventions, innovations and technical solutions.
Trademark: These are used to distinguish company services and goods from other companies’. You can protect your company name, slogan or mascot with trademarks.
Design copyright laws vary depending on your design type.
As we’ve seen, copyright laws for art and design are accepted for:
To be qualified for design rights you’ll need to have both of these specifications checked off
However, some design types fall in a grey area.
Here, we’ll outline two major design types that design freelancers have difficulties with when it comes to their design rights.
To connect with other freelance designers and develop more knowledge around how to tackle design freelancing situations, head over to Bonsai’s homepage for inspiration.
Logo designs overlap both copyright and trademark rights and many businesses tend to use both to protect their logos securely.
If you’re stuck on how to copyright a logo, you’re not alone.
There are a lot of questions as to where the lines are drawn and what would be the first step to take with logo copyrighting.
We’re here to help you get a few things straight.
When figuring out how to copyright a logo, many people figure they should go through the trademark route.
And for good reason.
Trademark protects things that help identify businesses within the marketplace and since logos are one of the most significant symbols of business identification, they’re automatically categorized in this list.
If you’re a freelance designer, you’ll need to know everything about starting a freelance business professionally, properly and effectively (signing up for Bonsai is the best step towards achieving this).
While copyright doesn’t cover details such as designs, colors, typefaces, and names, trademark does.
However, it’s also limited.
While copyright is designed to protect your work against nearly all unlicensed copying outside of fair use, a trademark deals with any usage that creates confusion in the marketplace of the company.
The best course of action is to treat your logo the same you would a photograph or painting (covered via copyright) and use trademark if you really want the extra protection (although, chances are you won’t as logo copyright infringement is fairly rare.)
If you’re not looking to handle copyright disputes anytime soon, it’s best to get ahead of the game by understanding the ins and outs of design copyright and creating professional contracts to avoid any issues.
Graphic design copyright can be a bit tricky as it doesn’t extend to familiar symbols such as titles, names or slogans, lettering or coloring, it’s not possible to copyright an idea for a graphic, and it needs to be fixed on a physical object – such as a piece of clothing, a sign or a piece of paper.
So, to copyright your graphic, you must create it into its fixed tangible object state first, then:
Copyright protects lasts for the artist’s lifetime, including 70 additional years afterward.
Even if your client is the one filling out the licensing form, they will expect you to understand your rights – so get on top of it!
Getting set up with the knowledge, tools, templates, and support, ensures freelancers make the most out of their career. This is what Bonsai provides. Start for free today:
Protecting your designs before starting your work with a client or a solo-mission is vital to avoiding a designer’s worst nightmare.
This is where professional graphic design contracts come in.
By organizing your Bonsai freelance contracts to include copyright infringement information, you’ll be protecting yourself and your work from any issues down the line – along with a smooth and professional working relationship with your new client.
A common cause for uncertainty and dispute among freelancers is the ownership of intellectual property rights for designs, websites, logos, and graphics which are created by third-party designers or the freelancers themselves.
Documenting the terms in which the materials are designed and created can remove all and any disputes or issues moving forward. Typically, if you’re working for a client, the work of art will belong to them upon completion, but the content for your freelance business is 100% yours.
Also, remember that Bonsai is here for all your freelancing questions, tips, and tools to help you make more money, faster and smoother with your clients. Sign up today to get started on your path.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?