Copyright law

Web Design and the Law

Copyright in Web Design

in a previous incarnation i was a qualified Legal Secretary in the UK legal system, before changing career into Graphic and web design. One thing I have noticed since changing over is the near total lack of education available on the legal matters that revolve around web and graphic design. Yes, many designers use contract agreements when dealing with clients and should know enough what is contained within to explain to their clients what they are signing.

But one area that is often glossed over and not fully explained or understood properly is Copyright.

who does what, belong to? this is a question I hear asked frequently, and a question I have heard many a designer stumble over, or fail to describe properly, an din some cases get completely wrong. But the answer is very simple when taken down to bare bones. The owner of the Copy, image, graphics, (With the exception of already existing branding, or or graphics), or other content created for a web site, is whom ever created it by default. The rights that copyright law refer to include the right to sell or transfer ownership of the content including all the rights associated with that content.

This is not to be confused with Trademark registration. A Company may own the trademark using in a design but the designer still owns the design itself and the copyrights of that content, until those rights are transferred. I will not go into all the rights contained within the term Copyright here as several volumes could be filed with explanations on the subject . But it is important to know that the law in the UK makes certain assumptions as to ownership, this includes copyright. So the law assumes that the ownership of a copyright belongs to the creator not the client unless have been sold or transferred to the client via contract.

I think many designers out there need to reread their contracts to ensure that they are allowing the copyright to reside with the right person. i have met many designers facing legal action of reproducing a clients design in their portfolio without having the copyright to do so or the permission of the copyright owner. Many common legal disputes within web design could be avoided if the correct education and information was given to both designer and client.