General Copyright Agreements can be lifesavers to your creative business

After a little consideration, I’d like to share a clause that we’ve got some great mileage out of at Engage… it reappears quite often in our client contracts. It may be of use to Myows users. It is (drum roll): The General Copyright Agreement. We use it on release forms, SLAs and project contracts amongst other things. It’s the copyright equivalent of Grandma’s allspice. It’s delicious and it goes on everything.


PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS AN EXAMPLE – IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE ADVICE! IT IS NOT A TEMPLATE FOR GENERAL USE.

This particular piece of legalese was prepared by Engage Brandcraft’s attorney for Engage Brandcraft’s use. I’m sharing it with you as an example but if you’d like to use it, I can’t sue you (I’d be very hard pressed to find a judge that felt that this constituted an Original Work). Just know this: if anyone tries to harm or upset you in any way as a result – this has nothing to do with me!

I specifically like the fact that this is in relatively plain English (if your client doesn’t understand this… RUN). I also like the fact that it covers three important aspects of copyright that are ignored by less organized souls:
– the right to use the work (dependent on payment),
– the right to alter work (moral right)
– and the right of the creator to include the work in her or his portfolio.

Most of these rights stand even in the absence of a clause like this or similar contract, but by asking your client to acknowledge these points, you align your expectations. You also signal that you take your work seriously! You’re a professional.

Here it is (read it out aloud in your head; it’ll make you feel bigger).

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All materials or property belonging to or commissioned by the CLIENT, as well as work performed, may be retained as security until all just claims against the CLIENT are satisfied.

1 In the case of pitch-work or any other creative or strategic work proposed to an individual or corporation but not paid for, the individual or corporation to whom the proposal is being made is considered, for the purposes of this agreement, as CLIENT. In the absence of the acceptance of a corresponding formal proposal or payment of associated invoice, all copyrights and intellectual property inherent therein will remain the property of THE COMPANY until a related fee or proposal can be agreed upon by both parties.

2 The rights to all design and artwork, including but not limited to photography and or illustration created by independent photographers or illustrators retained by THE COMPANY or purchased from a stock agency on CLIENT’s behalf, remain with THE COMPANY or its appointed or supplying artist, photographer or illustrator or their duly appointed agent. Unless a purchase of “All Rights” (A Buyout) is negotiated with or through THE COMPANY and/or his/ her authorized representative, you may not use or reproduce the design or the images therein for a purpose other than the one(s) originally stipulated.

3 We reserve the right to photograph and/or distribute or publish for our firm’s promotional and marketing needs any work we create for you, including mock-ups and comprehensive presentations, as samples for our portfolio, firm news letter, brochures, slide presentations and similar media. We agree to store final files and computer disks for a period of 6 months beyond the delivery of a job. Thereupon, we reserve the right to discard them.

We also reserve the right to list the name of any client that commissions work from THE COMPANY as a client and to display their logo in the ‘clients’ section of THE COMPANY’s website, portfolio, brochures or other self-promotional material.

If you wish to use the design we have created and/or the images within it for another purpose or project, including a reprint or exhibition, you must contact us to arrange the transfer of rights and any additional fees before proceeding. If printing or other implementation is done through your vendors, you agree to provide us with printed samples of each project.