stolen design

A hidden underground world of design theft

There is a murky hidden underground world of design theft – well maybe that’s a little too dramatic, but there is definitely a big grey area on design ownership. With a photographer, they retain the rights to their photographs, unless stipulated otherwise in a contract (that’s not to say they don’t get used elsewhere) – but what about your graphic design work?

Produced design concepts and artwork for a project

I recently worked on a project for a client who uses several freelance designers for various projects. I was briefed and produced a series of design options for a brochure, one was chosen and then I developed this for the final artwork. All fine and good and the client paid for the work, so no problems there. I was then working on a future project, for the same client and needed an image of a different leaflet that one of his other designers had done. I requested it, and was promptly sent a jpeg.

The design looked eerily familiar

The design looked eerily familiar and so I flicked back at the previous concepts I had done and saw it was very very (no way this was a coincidence) similar to one of the rejected ideas I had done.

So who owns the designs?

My question to you is – as the client has paid for the initial concepts, does he own the right to use the rejected ones as he wishes for future projects with other designers? Do I own them or does he?

Has something like this happened to you?