Last year, I approached a graphic design company with some of my own sketches and photos that I would like to be used in the design of some logos for my company branding. The designer uses my original sketches and then pitches some options back to me, from which I then select a design.
After I select the design, I pay the designer for executing the design, the printing of menus and flyers, and the design and maintenance of a website.
My question is: who is entitled to this intellectual property? Am I entitled to use this logo on my own accord?
The answer to this question is: What does your contract say. If your contract says nothing about copyright transfer then they own the copyright. See the thing is, the person who made the file owns the copyright of the file. Does not really matter what happened before.
What about the copyright of the things you did before. Well you own the copyright. But you see you gave the graphic designers a implied right to use them for this purpose*. So they are clear.
Next time negotiate your wishes into the contract that’s what they are for. Contracts are both sides writing down how they expect things to work for future reference***.
* Even if you didn’t give a implied right, by stipulating so in contract (sic), does not mean you own the copyright. Just because somebody violates your rights does not mean that you now get to own their output**. Just that now you can sue them for violation of copyright. Which may or may not mean anything in a court of law, this depends on jurisdiction. In my locale you’d almost certainly lose.
** Even if Youtube seems to work like this. What youtube does is not strictly speaking legal anywhere.
*** Note everybody always remembers the contract wrong afterwards.
This is one of the reasons that copyright usually transfers from salaried worker to company so that it does not need to be negotiated for each worker separately. This way media outlets are possible to make. This does not transfer to frelancers or contractors though.
- It took me a long time to understand that copyright is born once created. But does not project itself to new creations, it either is there at creation or not. So if you for some reason transfer the concept into a uncopyrightable medium then that thing never had copyright in first place. So copyright does not copy, you gain the copyright on grounds that you created the new one, or had the new one created in way that you control.