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  • Legal Question (rights to use work I created)

    Hi Guys.
    I have a client I have been working with for about 8 months now. I have worked on many projects, all of which were approved, used, and I was paid for.
    My work was on a shared dropbox account so the client could access them.

    Recently the client claims that they can no longer use the files I created, and they removed me from the dropbox folder without notifying me and claim that I cannot use any of the work I created over the past 8 months in my portfolio (it's a large body of work)

    I got written permission (in an email) about a month ago that I could use this work on my portfolio. The client now says they are "taking back" that permission.


    Question: Am I legally allowed to use the work I created in my portfolio? Obviously only taking credit for what I made. Does the client legally have to give me the files I created? They were essentially taken from me without any notification or permission.

    Thank you!

  • #2
    You didn't initiate the dropbox?
    You don't have copies????????
    Never trust The Cloud. Never.
    Did the client fire you?
    Sounds like you didn't have a contract. While an email is somewhat helpful, it isn't quite a binding legal document.

    Sounds like a live-and-learn experience. A hard one, at that.


    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by PrintDriver View Post
      You didn't initiate the dropbox?
      You don't have copies????????
      Never trust The Cloud. Never.
      Did the client fire you?
      Sounds like you didn't have a contract. While an email is somewhat helpful, it isn't quite a binding legal document.

      Sounds like a live-and-learn experience. A hard one, at that.

      He's been a client for years. I trusted him. That was my mistake.

      I thought the folder was synced to my computer and I didn't realize they could just remove me from it like they did. I rarely use dropbox with clients like this.

      Those mistakes aside, for the files I created that I do have (some of the important ones I did backup on a hard drive), can I legally use them on my portfolio? The client is claiming they own them and I can't even claim them as my work on my own portfolio.

      Is there any legal action I can take to get back the files they removed or no?

      Comment


      • #4
        Anytime you join a dropbox (or any other online worksharing party) the person who created the folder can dump anyone at any time. Doesn't matter if you are synched or not. The files in dropbox sit in dropbox. They don't reside on your computer unless you mirror them there intentionally.
        Did you have a contract that stated what the deliverables were? Or was it assumed once you posted the work to THEIR dropbox, it was theirs?

        We're not lawyers here. And the forum is world wide.
        The only person you can ask that question would be some type of legal council in your location.
        Without a contract? Doubtful you can make them do anything they don't want to do.
        Last edited by PrintDriver; 08-01-2017, 08:26 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by PrintDriver View Post
          Anytime you join a dropbox (or any other online worksharing party) the person who created the folder can dump anyone at any time. Doesn't matter if you are synched or not. The files in dropbox sit in dropbox. They don't reside on your computer unless you mirror them there intentionally.
          Did you have a contract that stated what the deliverables were? Or was it assumed once you posted the work to THEIR dropbox, it was their's?

          We're not lawyers here. And the forum is world wide.
          The only person you can ask that question would be some type of legal council in your location.
          Without a contract? Doubtful you can make them do anything they don't want to do.
          So without a contract, they can't tell me I can't use my own work on my portfolio, correct?

          I was under the impression that if I client paid for a project that work was theirs but the designer retained the rights to claiming the creation of it.

          I don't care about the files they removed. I care about whether or not I can use the files I do have on my portfolio.


          I know this isn't a legal forum. Just thought someone might have experience with this or no the law.

          Thanks for the input

          Comment


          • #6
            First, I'm not an attorney, so please don't take my understandings as legal advice. You're best off consulting a copyright attorney. Of course they charge a whole boat load of money, so a few Google searches might be in order to get a rough idea on your options. Here's what AIGA has to say about the subject: http://www.aiga.org/copyright-basics...phic-designers .

            Anyway, according to my long-held understanding, according to U.S. copyright law (and assuming you're in the U.S.), designers own the copyright to the work they produce unless they specifically sign over that copyright to the client. The exception to this rule is when you're an employee of a company; then the employer owns the copyright. In essence, when you design something for a client, the payment is for usage rights to the work, not the copyright itself. Lots of designers don't know this is the law, and very few clients understand it.

            If you think this sounds full of counterintuitive and ambiguous loopholes, you're right. This is still one more reason (stacked on top of at least a dozen others) why a contract is needed that clearly spells out exactly what a client is purchasing. This contract protects you and it protects the client from misunderstandings arising from you thinking one thing and them thinking another.

            In my contracts, there's an entire section dealing with exactly what the client is buying and that section always specifically addresses who will own the copyright. Typically, I'll write into the contract that the copyright is transferred to the client upon payment in full but that I have an irrevocable license to use the work solely for self-promotional purposes. This is all negotiable, of course, but my contracts never leave gaping ambiguities over who owns what.

            So in your situation, as I understand the law, in the absence of a document that says otherwise, you still own the copyright to the work you've produced and can use it for your self-promotional purposes. Then again, if your client understands it differently, has an expensive lawyer and is willing to take you to court over the thing, it's going to be a huge and expensive hassle for you that's going to suck away both your time and piece of mind, even if you win. Like I said, you should have had a contract that clearly spelled out the transaction.

            As for DropBox, my guess is that you'd lose that fight in court. And really, no matter whether the law's on your side or not, you want to do everything possible to stay out of court. If your DropBox issue did go to court, though (again, I'm no attorney), I imagine the client would just argue that it was their DropBox account to do with as the pleased and that they have no legal responsibility to make copies of the work for you since that responsibility was entirely yours.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by B View Post
              First, I'm not an attorney, so please don't take my understandings as legal advice. You're best off consulting a copyright attorney. Of course they charge a whole boat load of money, so a few Google searches might be in order to get a rough idea on your options. Here's what AIGA has to say about the subject: http://www.aiga.org/copyright-basics...phic-designers .

              Anyway, according to my long-held understanding, according to U.S. copyright law (and assuming you're in the U.S.), designers own the copyright to the work they produce unless they specifically sign over that copyright to the client. The exception to this rule is when you're an employee of a company; then the employer owns the copyright. In essence, when you design something for a client, the payment is for usage rights to the work, not the copyright itself. Lots of designers don't know this is the law, and very few clients understand it.

              If you think this sounds full of counterintuitive and ambiguous loopholes, you're right. This is still one more reason (stacked on top of at least a dozen others) why a contract is needed that clearly spells out exactly what a client is purchasing. This contract protects you and it protects the client from misunderstandings arising from you thinking one thing and them thinking another.

              In my contracts, there's an entire section dealing with exactly what the client is buying and that section always specifically addresses who will own the copyright. Typically, I'll write into the contract that the copyright is transferred to the client upon payment in full but that I have an irrevocable license to use the work solely for self-promotional purposes. This is all negotiable, of course, but my contracts never leave gaping ambiguities over who owns what.

              So in your situation, as I understand the law, in the absence of a document that says otherwise, you still own the copyright to the work you've produced and can use it for your self-promotional purposes. Then again, if your client understands it differently, has an expensive lawyer and is willing to take you to court over the thing, it's going to be a huge and expensive hassle for you that's going to suck away both your time and piece of mind, even if you win. Like I said, you should have had a contract that clearly spelled out the transaction.

              As for DropBox, my guess is that you'd lose that fight in court. And really, no matter whether the law's on your side or not, you want to do everything possible to stay out of court. If your DropBox issue did go to court, though (again, I'm no attorney), I imagine the client would just argue that it was their DropBox account to do with as the pleased and that they have no legal responsibility to make copies of the work for you since that responsibility was entirely yours.
              Thank you so much for the response B! I know it's a confusing topic and I really appreciate all of that feedback.

              Comment

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