Happens few and far between, but a new client has asked me to sign a Work For Hire agreement.

I am not work for hire. I am a freelance artist. if I create somethign for you to put on a tee, you put it on a tee and that's it. I own all other uses.

In the real world it is highly unlikely that this would ever cause a real conflict, since I do not recycle graphics. And even if I did, the enforcement is not worth the loss when you're talking about something like a 1-off tshirt design.

That said; I still don't like signing away the rights to every last mark or phrase I put into the design.

I've always signed them in the past and it's never been a problem. But I'm kind of over that at this point.

How have you guys handled this?
Advice for rejecting the contract but retaining the client?
  • William Henry

    If a client wants all the rights to your design, then you better be charging them significantly more money. I don't like signing away all rights either and just turned down a client who wanted them. I'm not totally opposed to it, I've just never had a client willing to pay the amount it costs to own the full rights. I've always had them want to pay t-shirt rights rates for full rights, and I'm not going to agree to that.
  • Dark-Prince Graphix

    William Henry said:If a client wants all the rights to your design, then you better be charging them significantly more money. I don't like signing away all rights either and just turned down a client who wanted them. I'm not totally opposed to it, I've just never had a client willing to pay the amount it costs to own the full rights. I've always had them want to pay t-shirt rights rates for full rights, and I'm not going to agree to that.

    Very logical, the thing here is how much more do you need to charge to make it fair?
  • fuggart

    I don't know if working in the music industry has made me think this way or if it's just that frankly I just don't give enough of a shit but really why are you so desperate to keep the rights to it? as long as you can use it in your portfolio or exhibitions who cares?

    I get to design T-shirts for a living for bands I listen to every day for a living. Who the hell cares past that?!
  • miles to go

    As a guy on the other side of this, I always ask for rights for t-shirts and any other products that fall into what I make, like journals, etc. If I send over a specific brief to hire an artist for something linked directly to my brand and made based off of my needs, I can't see how the artist would have much use outside of maybe poster prints, portfolio or something like that. I also haven't sent or signed a contract in forever. For instance, I had picked up art from an artist a few years ago for a design he had made on his own and I got shirt rights and asked when I wanted to make journals if it was cool and sent him a bunch of them. Since I had not hired him specific to my needs initially, I assumed I could only make t-shirts. He makes prints, so I stay away from any posters unless we discussed it prior.

    I would think most designs I get done would fall more into work for hire. Are they asking for work for hire so they can copyright it? I know when you copyright artwork through the government, its a question it asks.
  • dbdesign

    Personally this is something that I've never had issue with.

    This is a quality discussion, I am looking forward to reading more responses.
  • justinbryant

    fuggart said:I don't know if working in the music industry has made me think this way or if it's just that frankly I just don't give enough of a shit but really why are you so desperate to keep the rights to it? as long as you can use it in your portfolio or exhibitions who cares?

    I get to design T-shirts for a living for bands I listen to every day for a living. Who the hell cares past that?!

    This pretty well sums it up for me. But like Tom, I only work on music industry merch. I don't see me wanting to use the designs I make for my clients in any other way other than in my portfolio.
  • William Henry

    fuggart said:I don't know if working in the music industry has made me think this way or if it's just that frankly I just don't give enough of a shit but really why are you so desperate to keep the rights to it? as long as you can use it in your portfolio or exhibitions who cares?

    I get to design T-shirts for a living for bands I listen to every day for a living. Who the hell cares past that?!

    For me, its not so much about keeping the rights, its about getting properly compensated. If a client wants to use the work in any way they want for pretty much forever, then they need to pay for that. I'm not going to charge them just for a t-shirt design, then let them use the work however they want.

    And its great that you don't care and can make a living designing t-shirts, but most of us can't. I don't have clients constantly contacting me, so the difference between t-shirt rates and full rights rates makes a huge difference.
  • William Henry

    justinbryant said:
    fuggart said:I don't know if working in the music industry has made me think this way or if it's just that frankly I just don't give enough of a shit but really why are you so desperate to keep the rights to it? as long as you can use it in your portfolio or exhibitions who cares?

    I get to design T-shirts for a living for bands I listen to every day for a living. Who the hell cares past that?!

    This pretty well sums it up for me. But like Tom, I only work on music industry merch. I don't see me wanting to use the designs I make for my clients in any other way other than in my portfolio.

    Its not about how you want to use it, its about how the client wants to use it. If they want to use the design for a t-shirt, then the contract will state that is the only way they can use the design for x amount of time. If they want to use it in other ways, then they have to pay for that. Having a contract set up with the proper usage rights is not about allowing the designer to use the design in any way the client doesn't, its about keeping the client from using the design in ways they didn't pay for.
  • cynicdesign

    Really good discussion.
    Thanks very much for your input.

    In the end I agreed to their contract, with the caveat that I would retain rights to some things; the copyright on a slogan I submitted as part of the design, specifically.

    They did not accept, but instead decided to use their own very slightly tweaked slogan- practically identical to mine.

    I rolled my eyes, signed the contract and awaited the problem-client I was beginning to suspect I had on my hands. Nothing but headaches since.

    C'est la vie.

Advertise with us

Advertise with us


Sign Up

Forgot Your Password?