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February 24, 2013


Replies: 10

Does My Employer Own My Work?

bhensley Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Here's the situation:

I currently (until February 27) work for an auto dealership. Over my tenure with this company I have come to take over their entire digital marketing output. I also have done a fair bit of web development for this company. Long story short: I've created many, many graphics for the dealership.

My employment for them has never included a contract. Nor have I ever signed anything stating they would have rights to my intellectual property. This brings me to my general question: the work I have done for them, is it mine or theirs?

I'm not asking out of desire to pull their rights to use what I have created for them. I'm leaving amicably for greener pastures; there is no desire for anything malicious on my side. Especially given I will likely be doing contract work for the dealership in the months to come. Rather, I am asking out of sheer curiosity.

If anybody can shed some light on where this stands I would appreciate it.

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Devious Comments

bhensley Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the feedback everybody.

I know this question is better suited for an attorney. The only reason I haven't reached out to one yet is simple: even if I find out I retain ownership and full rights to the work I have done, it won't change anything. I'm not going to request they stop using my work.

I'm actually thinking more along the lines of my portfolio. Can I, without asking them for permission, put the work I did in my portfolio? Due to that element alone I may just go ahead and put an email out to an attorney or two.
kafine Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013   General Artist
Oh unless you're under NDA or some other contract that prevents you from showing the work in your professional portfolio, then it's usually understood that you'll be doing this even where your employer retains the rights.

You are probably good to go ahead but if you're not sure then why not just discuss it with someone from your former employer as a courtesy, since you're leaving amicably?

I don't think you'd need to involve a lawyer over this unless they decided to fight you.
VISIONOFTHEWORLD Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013
You were paid by this employer to do this work. You designed a website and graphics that were used by their business to promote their business. That is your contract, you were their employee. Any work whether it be design, arts, or working on cars- while employed by that business is owned by them- if it was done for that job. If you design a graphic on your own computer at home, never show it to them- and then after leaving you decide to use the same design somewhere else that is fine. It is not okay to use one of the designs you made for the former employer again. But honestly this is not something you should ask an internet forum about, you should seek legal advice from a legal professional.
Mercury-Crowe Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
No contract means they are yours.
VISIONOFTHEWORLD Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013
Employment is a contract.
Mercury-Crowe Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2013  Professional Artisan Crafter
*facepalm* with art, to have the rights belong to someone other than the artist, you have to write that down and sign it.

Working for someone does not mean they own your work unless you sign a contract that says they do. Otherwise it's yours.

It's the law, baby.
MYTHICSONOFGOD Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Law student here.

A contract isn't a psycal paper you sign. A contract is an agreement of wills. Regardless if there is a signed paper.

Depending on the laws of your country tour employer might claim ownership of your job if he can prove that he payed you for it.

However you in fact own all your moral rights.
kafine Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013   General Artist
You're doing the work for the company you're employed by, and you're doing it on company time?

Then they may well own it. It's a bit different than if you were freelance. But of course, you'd have to check with a lawyer familiar with intellectual property in your jurisdiction.
mondu Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013
Depends on your contract.

For example, take Magic the Gathering. Early MtG cards, copyright was owned by the artist. They had to be pad every time a card was printed. About the late 90's, Wizards changed their policy. Wizards now owns all artwork for their cards, rather than the artists.

"My employment for them has never included a contract. "

You're going to need a lawyer, then.
WilWhalen Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Without a contract stating otherwise I believe that ownership stays with the creator. That said, I'd be interested to hear from someone with concrete evidence.
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