Who owns the design?

Recently, I hired a graphic designer to design a brand, a web site, business cards and several other things.

After the initial design was complete and we launched, we have continued to make changes and tweak things. The designer is expressing concerns that she owns the design and therefore should be included in any changes updates etc.

We decided to open a new division to the company and in doing so we wanted to have this division have its own web presence. In order to do this we took our current site and had our marketing company create a new site, basically just changing the color scheme of the site of our parent company.

The graphic designer is accusing us of stealing her design and says she should have been involved and compensated.

We want to do the right thing, be we cant get a clear picture. We completely felt like the reason we paid so much money for the original design is because we own it. Now we are confused.


American copyright law states that if you work for a company (not on a contractor/freelance basis, but as a registered employee of that company), anything you create while working at your job, during your hours, is owned by your employer, be that the company or a specific person in the hierarchy.

Anything you make on your own time, off hours, is owned by you. Unless you give away those rights, either in a contract you signed with your employer, another person, or any entity that isn’t yourself (well, technically you can sign over the copyright to yourself, but that’s a little odd).

The on your own time thing above is the same as being a contractor/freelance working for another entity. Anything you make is owned by you, unless you signed away your rights (generally though contract).

http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/chapter0/0-c.html – source for above

On a slightly related note, that whole site, http://fairuse.stanford.edu/Copyright_and_Fair_Use_Overview/, is a really good resource for information on American copyright law.

Please note that I am not a lawyer, I do not have a law degree, and only know that which I have studied, so don’t take this as sound legal advice, and consult with an actual lawyer should you need it.

Source : Link , Question Author : Community , Answer Author : dkuntz2

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