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Can i sell the same design to multiple clients?

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  • Can i sell the same design to multiple clients?

    Sorry if this has been brought up before, i searched and couldnt find an answer. I am wondering about a specific scenario.

    Say i freelance for a company who needs a shirt design for an event they are holding. They ask for a cool illustrated design with the name of the event and want to include their company logo, name and some other small bits of info about their company on the shirt. They will only be using this shirt design for the one event, they will sell those shirts, and after the event the design will be retired from their company.

    Now, the illustrated design for the shirt was really cool, so say a short time later i remove any text information related to the company and i slightly alter the illustrated design. The design is essentially the same, but it changes anything significantly related to the company. Is it ok to resell that illustrated design to another company or to a generic tshirt company to print and sell? The original company never outright bout any of the rights to the shirt, they simply asked for a design.

    What do you guys think?

  • #2
    If it's stated in your contract that designs purchased for a single use may be re-sold, and the client signs it, then sure.
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    • #3
      ^Right. Virtually anything can be stipulated in your contract. That's where anything and everything becomes permitted or not.

      That said, it does seem pretty obvious you're relating a scenario that's already happened, and if you had your contractual provisions sewn up, you wouldn't be asking the question here.

      Did you have a contract with company #1?
      I'd rather be killed than come to your party, but if you don't invite me, I'll kill myself.

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      • #4
        When illustrating something, it's always a good idea to stipulate if the client is purchasing the image, or only licensing it. When I purchase an illustrator's services for my clients, it always has to be stated up front what rights are conveyed for use. That's the way the pros work.

        Without that signoff, Company #1 might have some interesting things to say if they see ''their'' illustration used for Company #2. Especially if both designs come from the same designer.
        Interesting as in ''not nice''
        When it comes to corporate branding, even for small companies and tiny events, a lot of things can be assumed by both parties. Like Company #1 thinking maybe they paid for your time to create the illustration, so it's theirs. Or they commissioned it as a furtherance of their brand, so it's theirs.
        Et cetera.

        It's a good way to lose BOTH clients.

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        • #5
          In the U.S., if you didn't specifically sign over the copyright, your client, in essence, just bought usage rights to it. Like others have said, though, you should have specified in your contract exactly what the client was buying. So assuming you didn't sign the rights over to them, that still doesn't necessarily mean that you can use the artwork in ways that might, in some way, compromise the value of what they purchased or the purpose for which they purchased it to accomplish.

          I'm no attorney, but stuff like this gets awfully messy awfully fast when you assume that the laws regarding this kind of thing are straight-forward and clear. These are the ingredients that law suits are made of and that judges make careers out of deciding.

          And beyond the legalities, reselling something like you're contemplating (or have already done) is just a bit unscrupulous and slippery without getting both the original and the new client's okay on it. When you partner with a client on a project, a good, ethical designer does so in good faith and always has the client's best interests in mind. What you're proposing is violating that trust, even if it might be technically legal to do so. Successful businesses avoid screwing over their customers, and I think you already suspect this is the case or you wouldn't have bothered to ask the question.

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