Client is claiming he did the work I was hired for

Hello, Everyone,

I’ve been doing 3d work for a long time client. Recently he opened his own studio and I was quite surprised to find out he has credited himself not only for the part he does, but to my work as well. I’m not an employee in his studio but a contractor (I have my own company). He provides concepts, designs and sometimes footage and I execute the CGI work. Now I see he has credited himself on his website not only for the concept and things he has done for the project, but to all the modeling, animation, match-moving, down to rendering the final output which I do. We have been in good relations and don’t sign any contracts, which to my knowlege actually leaves me with all the copyrights to the final work or at least to the part I’ve done… Anyways, I told him I don’t mind transferring the copyrights, but if not give credit to me, at least not credit himself and his studio for the part of the work I’ve done and not to put work he has just outsourced to me without any input from him in his portfolio. He says he cannot do that as he is building his studio reputation and if he gives credit, clients would bypass him.
How do you suggest I should proceed with this? I would be happy to have your input on this question before seeking legal advice from a lawyer.
Best Regards,
Ivan

Why can’t he identify his studio as a ‘team’ of professionals?
You can ask him how is business will look with a C&D slapped on it…
But,
Without a contract stating what deliverables you handed to him, good luck with a lawyer.
Do you at least have business transaction emails? Not the same thing but may be workable in some fashion.

Are you really a contractor if you don’t have a contract?

Nobody owes you credit. If you want that, you have to state that in your contract. That’s from the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines.

Thank you for your replies. Am I not? I’ve been hired to provide a service, and not as an employee in his studio. I have all the business communication on email, invoices and all payment is declared and legit. If not crediting me for the work, does he have the right to credit himself? Am I not the current copyright holder as the creator of the work if no written agreement to transfer the rights is in place?

Did he specifically credit himself or his studio for the CGI work or did he simply fail to credit you? It’s fairly common for studios or ad agencies not to credit their contractors since it’s more or less assumed that agencies use outside resources to augment their in-house skills. The implication to their clients is that this is the kind of work clients can expect from us, and whether or not we bring in outside contractors to assist is irrelevant.

Whatever the case, unless you have a written and signed contract specifying that you receive a credit line, you’re probably out of luck if he refuses. Yes, in the US, unless the copyright was signed over to him, you only sold unspecified usage rights, which the courts would likely (I’m not an attorney) determine included reasonable self-promotion using the work the studio and the studio’s associates (in this case, you) produced.

You apparently have your reasons, but I’m unsure why this is so important to you. I certainly would not threaten him with legal action if you want him to remain a client or give you good referrals. Instead, if it were me and he refused and if I felt as strongly as you do, I’d bite my tongue once he refused, then make any future work contingent upon a written guarantee that I receive written credit in the future.

Nope.

I don’t specifically request to be credited, it just feels wrong to me to say his studio did something done by a 3rd party. It’s like Upwork saying they did all the work of their freelancers. I’m not going after legal actions just advice from a lawer(still expensive) Or maybe that’s just how I see it, that’s why I ask here. He advertises his company as a studio, not an agency, maybe it doesn’t matter. He also claims I can’t use this work in my portfolio which seems a bit too much. I have never agreed to that. If he receives the rights of self promotion, does this give him the right to pass the work to his clients?

They provided all the assets and you did your things.

To him, you were an employee of the company - an outside contractor - and unless it was stated that they would give you credit, you’re treated as an employee.

You were employed for a short period to work for that company.

It would be like me working for a print broker, and I make edits and artistic changes to a large national brands campaign, under direction of the print brokerage and the client.
Then slapping this in my portfolio as my artistic work.


Here’s what I’d do -

Meet them for a coffee - if you can’t meet for a coffee - then do a Zoom call or similar.

Give them the credit for starting their own company, state that you have that good relationship and wish to continue.

Then simply ask them would it be possible to give you a mention on the website under the projects you worked together on.

You give them a linkback - and they give you a linkback - and that will boost both websites for traffic too.

From what I understand.

Hello, Everyone,
Firts to clear some things up - In contrast to what Smurf2 said, for me to be an employee of his company he has to hire me with a contract. That goes with a ton of responsibilities, requirements and additional expences for him, minimum wages restrictions, overtime payment and so on. Ordering a service from my company or from a freelancer is a totally different thing.

To follow up the copyrights issue, I contacted a lawyer and as I initially thought,in the case of ordering a service from a 3rd party company, the sole creator of the artistic representation of the idea is the copyrights holder, unless a contract settles things differently (this is in the European Union, thing may differ somewhere else ) . Since I don’t have any contracts (I have risked the chance of not being paid working without a contract, the copyright law kind of acts as insurance), that makes me the owner of what I did in the final output - i.e. the visuals I created, but not the packaging label desings or other materials that were provided to me. In this case him crediting his studio to my part of the work is unlawful, and forbidding me to use something I own in my portfolio is totally bogus as long as I describe what part of the visuals is my work. Not only that, but his neglegence to put things in contract enables me to file a suit of copyright infrigement to his clients that used the work without my permission, putting him in a very miserable place.

Of course I’m not such a vengeful person and I believe continuing good relationship and working on future projects is the best option. I haven’t got any response from him yet, after I told him he’s not right to credit everything to himself but I have quite a good leverage.

Him giving credit to me on his site without such arrangements in a contract seems to be a question of courtesy. I have given him tons of know-how, advices on how to do stuff over the years, even samples of my work so he can get the client and premium prices for bulk work that never happened to be in bulk and in the end this is how he treats me. So the moral of the story is being good-hearted, loyal and helpful only brings people to take advantage of you. Thanks everyone for the discussion.

I disagree - you were not freelancing, you had no contract. All he has to say is he took you on as an intern. If you have a verbal contract, it’s as good as the paper it’s written on.

If you got that from a lawyer and wish to pursue it - good luck.

I’m not a lawyer.

The moral of the story is don’t work without a contract. Standard professional practice.

Smurf2 - being a freelancer or a company is a matter of how you are registered in the tax agency, it has nothing to do with your clients relations.

Mojo - true, have a contract and don’t do any favours expecting any kindness back from the other party.

If he didn’t credit you with the work, you could remind him that you didn’t specifically grant your creative license to him for the work and ask him to kindly either give you credit or remove the work from his portfolio. An artists creative license always stays with the creator and not the client until it is specifically granted.

Good job standing your ground.
it’s nice to see