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  • Legal Issues - Previous Employer

    I worked for a small company for approximately six years, who picked me up when I was a junior in high school who'd done some tutorials on Photoshop. Over these six years I've created a multitude of artworks ranging from logos, backdrops, letter headers, PowerPoint templates, the whole nine yards. I was recently terminated, and my boss tells me that I cannot keep any copies of the work I did (for resume purposes). I understand the company owns the rights, but as the original author, would I not be within my own rights to have these images for personal use (pursuant of a job) whilst not being allowed to build upon / use them for any commercial venture in the future? Or do I literally have no portfolio because I was an employee and not a freelancer?

    As a side note, I never signed a contract to my knowledge that would bind me to any extraneous rules put down by the company, so this would be an "as-is" situation.

    Thank-you very much for any input any of you have. I just really have absolutely no knowledge in this area and am reaching out into areas that I think could help me.

  • #2
    Welcome to the forum Tetuous. We ask all new members to read the threads posted HERE and HERE. They explain how the forum runs, the rules, frequently discussed topics and our inside jokes.
    _____________

    As far as I know, it sounds like you were doing work for hire, everything you created belongs to your employer, and you can't use any of it if they won't give you permission.

    (In my experience, it's unusual for an employer to completely refuse to let you any of the work for your portfolio, but if that's what he said...)

    <--- PS: Not an attorney. You might want to see if there's a chapter of Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts in your area.
    This post is brought to you by the letter E and the number 9. Those are the buttons I push to get a Twix out of the candy machine.
    "I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process."

    Comment


    • #3
      I remember reading something like this in the graphic artist hand book, and if my memory serves me correctly, garricks is right.

      Comment


      • #4
        While you definitely don't have ownership rights, I figured a portfolio would be considered fair use. This AIGA article seems to agree:

        http://aigasf.org/community/legaliti...rtfolio_rights

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks for all the input, especially VDM. I never really considered arguing fair use over works I've done.

          It's a stressful thing imagining a job I had for upward of six years, which literally encompasses the entirety of my creative work, would deny me the rights to use my own work to find occupation. I'd have six years of experience in graphic design and no creative work to show for it. Big thanks to you guys (and gals?) for helping me out and giving me some solid advice. If anyone has anything else to add, please chime in, but at least now I have some sort of idea of what I'm getting myself into.

          Comment


          • #6
            If it's printed and you show it to other employers, how can they(the previous employer) even know to tell you no and sue you as well? I never understood that part of work for hire.
            In life there are a lot of grey areas; not in the conception phase of logo design.

            When a person asks you to do work for nothing in return, they are saying to your face, "You're worthless but useful to me."

            Shall is a direct command whereas the verb will is a prophecy of the future.

            http://www.behance.net/tmt

            Comment


            • #7
              It's unusual for a company not to allow you to use artwork that you created for your own, personal portfolio for applying for new design positions.

              But if you were to start your own freelance company (in competition with your past employer) and post the work you did for them online, that would not be a personal portfolio.
              It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Buda View Post
                It's unusual for a company not to allow you to use artwork that you created for your own, personal portfolio for applying for new design positions.

                But if you were to start your own freelance company (in competition with your past employer) and post the work you did for them online, that would not be a personal portfolio.
                I'm not sure that would be an issue, as I was the graphic designer for a company that does work entirely outside of the graphics industry (I was just the one who made it look good). But that's a good thing to keep in mind, thanks.

                Comment


                • #9
                  This is definitely worth talking to an attorney about. There is no question that your former employer owns the original work and the copyrights on all the work that you did while employed there. However, if I understand you correctly, they are objecting to you using reproductions of the work in your portfolio.

                  Some years ago a similar thing happened to me. I worked for an advertising agency for several years and quit to open an advertising art studio. The studio was not in competition with them in any way. The agency said I could not use printed samples of the work done while I was employed by them. I told them to get lost.

                  I was much younger then and dumb enough to take a chance. If that happened today I would see a lawyer.
                  Last edited by sully1251; 04-24-2012, 12:53 AM.
                  http://www.paulsullivanstudio.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by sully1251 View Post
                    I worked for an advertising agency for several years and quit to open an advertising art studio. The studio was not in competition with them in any way.
                    If you were putting together a personal portfolio only to be seen by employers for a position in another company, that's completely different. You were opening your own studio, I would say you would be in direct competition. You can't present work that doesn't belong to you in your new company website. I don't think even a lawyer could argue that the work was yours to use.
                    It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" Winnie the Pooh

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi there Buda—An ad art studio is not in competition with an ad agency. In any decent-sized market, an art studio is a supplier to an ad agency. Also, here the term ad agency is in referrence to an actual ad agency producing ads for magazines—not some shop turning out collateral material and do-dads.
                      Last edited by sully1251; 04-24-2012, 03:56 PM.
                      http://www.paulsullivanstudio.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Tetuous View Post
                        I worked for a small company for approximately six years, who picked me up when I was a junior in high school who'd done some tutorials on Photoshop. Over these six years I've created a multitude of artworks ranging from logos, backdrops, letter headers, PowerPoint templates, the whole nine yards. I was recently terminated, and my boss tells me that I cannot keep any copies of the work I did (for resume purposes). I understand the company owns the rights, but as the original author, would I not be within my own rights to have these images for personal use (pursuant of a job) whilst not being allowed to build upon / use them for any commercial venture in the future? Or do I literally have no portfolio because I was an employee and not a freelancer?

                        As a side note, I never signed a contract to my knowledge that would bind me to any extraneous rules put down by the company, so this would be an "as-is" situation.

                        Thank-you very much for any input any of you have. I just really have absolutely no knowledge in this area and am reaching out into areas that I think could help me.
                        If you have printed samples of work you produced for them. Then you can feel free to show it to potential employers all you want. No one can stop you. However, if you plan was to create an online portfolio and publish these samples to your website, then yes you could have some legal issues.

                        The best way to handle is to not publish the material on the web. Make a PDF portfolio that you can send via email.
                        Online Porfolio - www.drivedesignworks.com

                        Comment

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