Copyright Release

For several years, I have been designing book covers and laying out book interiors for self-published authors. I always start with a written quote, signed by the client, which describes the scope of the project and includes a clause that states that the right of all completed work belongs to the client, and that attribution is appreciated but not required. Is this enough, or do I need to have a more extensive copyright release? I’ve also just come to realize that when you use stock imagery, the client must agree to adhere to the license agreement. Fortunately, this is the first time I’ve had to deal with stock imagery (the client insisted on a certain photo) Ugh. How do you guys handle copyright releases and stock image licensing? I’m so lost :grimacing:

I can’t remember the exact wording, but in my boilerplate contract, I just state that my copyright to the work transfers to the client upon payment in full. I also have a clause saying that I retain rights to use the work for self-promotional purposes. Sometimes clients object to this clause and I remove or modify it — usually they don’t care.

It’s best to purchase rights to stock images in the client’s name acting as the client’s agent or, better still, to have the client purchase the images directly. You buying the rights, then selling or giving those photos to the client doesn’t pass muster in some of the stock licensing agreements. It’s best for the clients to purchase the image, then there’s no question about who owns what and who’s liable for any future (mis)use of those images.

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In addition to Just-B’s advice, I’d suggest you carefully review the stock photo license. With the type of work I do, this isn’t an issue, but I do seem to recall that some stock photo companies have restrictions about how photos are used on products for sale. It’s not a problem to use a stock photo on disposable packaging, but there may be restrictions when the stock photo would be an integral part of the product being sold. For example, you might not be able to take a stock photo and turn it into a poster because the poster is what people are ostensibly buying – as opposed to disposable packaging that gets thrown out while the real product is kept. A book cover could be a gray area. The cover is part of a physical object being sold, but you could argue what the consumer is really buying is the book content, not the cover. Maybe all of this has changed but it’s worth checking out.

Picking up on what @Steve_O said, it’s quite common for some royalty-free photo licenses to stipulate they can only be used for editorial purposes. In other words, the photo can be placed in story in, say, a magazine but can’t be used in an ad in a magazine.

Thanks for the reply! I spoke with iStock and they said I can assign my client as a licensee when I purchase the photo, in effect acting as her agent, so I will be doing that.

Do you mind if I ask how you got a hold of your boilerplate contract? Did you have a lawyer draw it up, or is there a trusty online source that you could recommend?

Mine is based on the AIGA Standard Form of Agreement for Design Services. Their standard form is lengthy but complete. I’ve cut it down considerably for my purposes and worded it in more straight-forward English. I also modify it from one job to the next as the situation warrants. I have a brother-in-law who’s an attorney, so I let him read over it. He made a few wording changes here and there, but made no significant changes.

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