Artwork – Do You Own It?

Artwork – Do You Own It?

It’s a question I am asked over and over … Who owns the artwork?

The dispute on this has been going for centuries, and officially the jury is still out on the subject. Many designers feel that regardless of  how much the client paid, the artwork and copyright belongs to the designer. Many clients feel that because they have paid for a service, the results of that service then belong to the client.  Its easy to see the merits of both sides, but unless you come to a pre-arrangement with your designer, you might find yourself with only the final files, and not the raw editable product.

What to look out for.

Websites  and Hosting
On completion and launch of your website, you should have access to your hosted files, ownership of your domain name, and full access to your hosting and email accounts. BUT … it is your responsibility to maintain or arrange for a regular offsite backup. NOTE: some WYSIWYG web hosting like WIX does not allow for file download or offsite backup, meaning if you want to move host, you need to start again.
If you allow your hosting to expire, it is standard practice for the host to delete all the files without storing a backup.

Logos and Branding
Often in the creation process you will be provided with concept drawings. RARELY will these belong to you. Infact, the designer will most likely put these away as ideas for future clients. Also, unless you have specifically purchased the font, this is usually exluded from the file supplied files.

It is standard practice to provide the client with a few versions of their logo as PNG, JPG, PDF and EPS files allowing for the client to then pass these files to their signwriter or printer as needed. Often at the same time the client will be given the colours – as HEX, RGB and CMYK – along with the font names. Rarely is the original working AI file provided.

Once you have your artwork, this is where the differences in designer-client agreements come into play, and where you need to know the arrangement before you enter into a contract.

The way that I work is that once the project has been paid in full, I provide all the relevant files to the client. The client then has the right to change and use these files as they wish. My clients own their artwork, and while I do make a backup of all the files, it is then my clients responsibility to retain the originals securely.

Advertising, Print  and Digital
When it comes to documents, posters, POS or digital adverts, there’s a few variables in the mix. As with your branding and logo, what you own and the final files you are supplied with is between the client and the designer. At AndyK Design, you will be provided with the finished product – digital file or print ready pdf – and if you require the working files, then I will provide them to you on request.
Additionally, you may find that fonts, original stock art files, raw image files and alternative concepts or layouts will not be included.

This is a very big murky area, where most clients are dealing with artists rather than the graphic designer or print agency. Many artists feel that regardless of what they have drawn, painted or created, they will always own it. But the reality is that if an artist is contracted to create something, they then only own the right to say they created it. Where a major difference between art and artwork is, that an artist will never hand over unfinished work or the raw files, and often the art will include an artist signature – often discretely.
At AndyK Design the arrangement varies depending on the contract, as most of the illustrations I provide are for branding and graphic design. Although I will clearly state prior to any work commencing if the original artwork will not be made available.

If in Doubt … ASK.

So the moral of the story is that before you contact anyone to provide a service for you – and this is not limited to just the marketing world – please carefully read their terms. If you are unsure of what you will receive upon final payment, then ASK.

* Please note that not everything you read on the internet is accurate. While any stated statistics are accurate, the articles I write are based purely on my opinion from over 30 years in the marketing and advertising industry. 



This article contains my opinions, based on many years in the printing, marketing and advertising industry.

Graphic Artist & Designer
AndyK Design