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  • Client steals artwork, then pays me. Now what?

    Backround: I'm a designer just striking out on my own. I have a website where I post artwork and my portfolio, and I've been building my business by targeting specific markets, creating my own designs and selling them through third party websites.

    The Problem: A potential client contacted me and asked me about using some of the artwork on my website. The image he wanted to use, however, I was planning on having made into stickers and other items to sell. I suggested a custom logo and quoted a price to him, and indicated that upon an affirmative response I would send him a copy of my contract. A few weeks later I receive an envelope in the mail containing: a T-shirt with my logo on it, a letter indicating that it has also been used on signage, and a check for the full amount I requested.

    The Question: How do I proceed from here? I'm happy to have been paid, but I may have made more money by selling the merchandise with the image on it. Then again, maybe not. I don't want to make waves in this niche market, where everybody knows everybody. If he stole it blatantly, I would have no problem dragging him through the mud, but this is a little trickier. Do I ask him to sign a contract after the fact? Do I continue with my plan to make and sell merchandise with this logo? The original price I quoted (and which he paid) would have been for him to retain all rights, but I'm still attached to this image. Would it be Kosher to ask him to sign a contract and inform him that I'm keeping some of the rights?

    *sigh* I'm new to this kind of stuff. Suggestions appreciated.

  • #2
    I would take the money and design something else for my own use.

    Comment


    • #3
      I would too. It's not right what he did, but chances are you're coming out on top by taking it. You're being paid in full as if you were contracted for a job, for work which has already been created on your own time. That sounds like a good deal to me.
      Ned Yeung, A.C.E.
      mediamainline.com
      cyclopsphoto.ca

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by RocArts View Post
        Do I continue with my plan to make and sell merchandise with this logo? The original price I quoted (and which he paid) would have been for him to retain all rights, but I'm still attached to this image. Would it be Kosher to ask him to sign a contract and inform him that I'm keeping some of the rights?
        This is fringey stuff but take this as a lesson learned. You need to be clear when first communicating with the client. My estimate forms have all the info on my contract so they can preview the terms as well as the price. Actually, I use my estimate/proposal as my contract. It saves a step for me. Since you gave him the option of retaining all rights for the image for a price, which he paid, I'd say you've relinquished rights to use the image again. I think you'll ruin your reputation among this close knit community if you go back on your word. I say lesson learned and move on.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by balou
          Since you gave him the option of retaining all rights for the image for a price, which he paid, I'd say you've relinquished rights to use the image again.
          Technically, I made him the offer in regards to a totally original piece of art, not the one he used. I see your point about the need to be more clear in my communication, however.

          Comment


          • #6
            im confused here. how did he get working files to make shirts and signage?? do you put vector art or hi-res art on your webpage?

            "There's something about turning the pages of a book or magazine and the felling of rubbing your hands across the words."

            This is my pen tool. There are many like it, but this one is MINE. My pen tool is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My pen tool without me is useless. Without my pen tool, I am useless.

            there is no grey area when it comes to 1 color logos.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Typically View Post
              im confused here. how did he get working files to make shirts and signage?? do you put vector art or hi-res art on your webpage?
              Nope, he took the low-res art and had someone clean it up.

              Comment


              • #8
                ooooooo that's shitty.

                "There's something about turning the pages of a book or magazine and the felling of rubbing your hands across the words."

                This is my pen tool. There are many like it, but this one is MINE. My pen tool is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My pen tool without me is useless. Without my pen tool, I am useless.

                there is no grey area when it comes to 1 color logos.

                Comment


                • #9
                  1 word, watermark. Or show your images low res through a flash viewer.
                  Professional Pixel Pusher Designing the world around you. | Working daily to reach 10,000 hours of practice.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by CkretAjint View Post
                    1 word, watermark. Or show your images low res through a flash viewer.
                    Flash images are easily taken with a screen capture. Any bloke with Photoshop can take out a watermark. I don't see that it deters a thief much. Anything that would degrade the artwork enough to make it unusable would also make it un-viewable. I do add a copyright mark to every image I post; possibly this is the only reason he felt guilty enough to pay me!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RocArts View Post
                      Nope, he took the low-res art and had someone clean it up.
                      Oh yeah, that was way too sneaky. I hope you educated him on the error of his ways. I'm curious why he paid you. Did he really think that was they way to do things? Weird.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        yeeeeyikes! that's horrible, who is this client. he's bound to do this to someone else.

                        Too bad there wasn't a site where it lists bad clients and to work with them at your own risk for designers. kind of like those web sites that lists cheating bf's or gf's.

                        That's too bad, i'm sorry that happened to you. eeesh, i'm slowly learning from everyone else's situations.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by balou View Post
                          Oh yeah, that was way too sneaky. I hope you educated him on the error of his ways. I'm curious why he paid you. Did he really think that was they way to do things? Weird.
                          I'm guessing because he already paid for the printing and distribution, then somebody learned him after about all the legal trouble he could get into. So offering cash up front was the cheapest out for him.
                          Ned Yeung, A.C.E.
                          mediamainline.com
                          cyclopsphoto.ca

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Have you cashed the check? If so, I'd say the game is over. You've basically agreed to terms by accepting payment.

                            If not, and no contract, you might make a courtesy call and point out that there are some legal issues that are not resolved. That being said, you could state that in order to tidy up things legally, you will need a signed contract and point out that you still retain the rights. At that point, you could also state that you don't want to engage in a legal mess and since the image is being used unlawfully, that a percentage of the proceeds can be negotiated or purchase of the rights to continue use can be obtained for "x" amount of dollars.

                            Note: this should not be construed as legal advice; only information to consider.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              What a bizarre series of events. The guy must have used it, spent money printing things and later has become concerned about the copyright issues to have paid you... Still you own the copyright, so you can use the image for whatever you like. Because there was no contract, you certainly are not handing over copyright by cashing the cheque (no matter what the price you quoted him might have included if he'd gone by the book). See if you can work the image into a porno website or something else with strong connotations so that no one wants to wear it on a t-shirt... that'll learn him :P

                              Also Tea's point about royalties is a good one - depends what you want to do about the whole issue. Just make sure he knows it's not the way to do business, otherwise he might like some of your other images and just take them and continue thinking everything is all good.

                              Comment

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