1. Technology
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Freelance Design Contracts Components: Ownership and Copyright

Contract Clauses


Who owns the work you do? If a project is cancelled does the client have rights to what you've completed up to that point? It all depends on what you and the client agree to in the freelance design contract.
  • Ownership of Artwork: While you will deliver a finished product (such as a brochure or a Web site) to the client, whether or not you turn over your original digital files upon completion of the project. It is not uncommon for the designer to retain the artwork. If turning over the originals, an additional cost may be charged, in part to at least cover media costs and the time required to transfer the files to disk.

    Do I Have to Give a Client My Original Digital Files?
  • Ownership of Preliminary Designs: Generally the designer retains ownership of all preliminary design work. It should be in the contract to provide protection in the event the client cancels the project after you've provided some initial designs for approval. The contract may provide for return of preliminary designs and additional fees if the client fails to return the artwork upon cancellation.

  • Promotional Copies: In the ownership clause or elsewhere in the contract you can retain the right to use preliminary designs as well as samples of the completed project in future marketing materials (such as your portfolio), design competitions, or other uses. (See Get Samples of Your Work)

These are some of the most important issues addressed in a freelance design contract. There are, however, additional clauses that may be included such as indemnity provisions, warranties, provisions for loss of materials in transit, and confidentiality issues.

Project Details | Project Costs | Ownership and Copyright

Your Assignment: Based on the information presented here as well as the sample contracts and advice in our Freelance Design section, create a sample contract for your business. While it is wise to have a lawyer look over your proposed contract you can still do the preliminary work of making sure that all those issues most important to you are included and making decisions as to how you want to handle such matters as deposits, payment terms, and ownership of the artwork.

Freelance Design > Start a Business > Contracts and Forms > Create a Contract

This article is part of our free Start a Desktop Publishing Business Email Course. Learn more about the course and sign up now.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.