As a graphic designer, you would have built up an impressive portfolio of creative work. As your business grows, it is important to put in place the key legal documents to protect your business, and in particular, your intellectual property. In this article, we discuss the key legal documents you will need and what each of these documents should cover.

Client Agreement

Even if you have a great rapport with your clients, it is still important to have a client agreement (or terms and conditions) in place. Your client agreement is going to:

  • make sure that both parties agree on how the legal relationship will work; and
  • help prevent misunderstandings from happening down the track.

Well-drafted client agreements should address the following:

  • what fees are payable and when (for example, do you take payment upfront, or upon completion of milestones?);
  • the scope of the services, as well as what is not included;
  • when the creative work is to be delivered;
  • how your client can request amendments to the creative work, and whether this attracts additional fees;
  • who owns the intellectual property in the newly created work (noting that, usually, the parties will retain ownership of their pre-existing intellectual property);
  • what intellectual property licences the client grants to you in order for you to perform the work (and a promise from your client that they are not breaching any other person's rights when doing so);
  • your client's right to use the creative work;
  • what the parties' rights are if they want to terminate the agreement;
  • a limitation of liability, for example, by capping your liability to the total amount the client paid or less; and
  • disclaimers, including that you are not liable for your client's mistakes or change of mind.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property ownership is a prominent theme to be addressed in your client agreement. You may choose to assign ownership of the work, which is essentially selling the right to use your work, upon receiving full payment from the client. Alternatively, you may wish to grant a licence. This means that the client's right to use any of the work you created depends on the terms of the licence, which can be as broad or as narrow as you would like it to be.

If you use a 'proposal' document or similar to pitch your services to your client, or to encapsulate the scope of work and pricing for your services, your client agreement can be drafted to work alongside your proposal.

Copyright Notice

You may choose to display some of your artistic and creative work on your website and associated social media platforms. Your artistic work will be automatically protected by copyright in Australia once it is written down or drawn, whether on paper or electronically. You do not necessarily need to take any extra steps to assert your copyright ownership. However, it can be useful to place a copyright notice on your artistic work to identify that you are the owner of the work.

A copyright notice usually looks similar to the following: © [Creator Name], [Year created]

Website Terms of Use

Your website and associated social media pages will be a place for customers to:

  • contact you;
  • view your portfolio; and
  • read any information or content you display in articles or blog posts.

Your website terms of use acts as a form of notification to anyone browsing your website or social media pages. Your terms of use are usually 'browsewrap', which means that website visitors do not necessarily need to 'tick' to accept the terms, but rather, by browsing your website, they inherently agree to the terms.

The website terms of use usually include:

  • a copyright notice to claim copyright in all your creative work;
  • a licence to permit visitors to use your website for personal use only. For example, they cannot use your website or any information on your website to compete with your business;
  • clauses to prohibit unauthorised use of your work; and
  • disclaimers, so that, for example, any information on your website cannot be relied upon.

Privacy Policy

As privacy laws continue to evolve, it is increasingly important to make sure that your business privacy practices are sound. Whether or not you are legally required to have a privacy policy, it is still important to have, to demonstrate that you take privacy seriously. You can do this by having an up to date privacy policy.

You can set out in your Privacy Policy if you collect personal information from your clients, such as name and contact details, and if you:

  • pass this information onto any third party;
  • obtain information from third parties; or
  • use the information for marketing purposes.

Key Takeaways

As a graphic designer, you must ensure that your creative work and your business is adequately protected. You can do this by putting in place your core legal documents with clients, including your:

  • client agreement;
  • copyright notice;
  • website terms of use; and
  • privacy policy.

Risks start to arise where there is confusion about who owns the intellectual property; or if a client were to take your draft work and use it without full payment.