Can a designer use the design they made for you for their own purposes?

Seems like a simple question but I am curious if there is a simple answer.

I recently hired a designer to make a logo for me for a blog I run. However, the designer recently used the exact same logo design for her own site.

I’m not going to complain or anything, but was just curious if this sort of thing is copyright infringement/etc.

Does this extend to all services? If I provide a service for someone, can I also use the product of that service for my own ends?

Don’t know about the legality of this, but it certainly isn’t ethical. I am an artist, and have designed many logos for people. Once they accept it and pay for it, it’s theirs, not mine. I would never use it for my own purposes.

It depends on the contract that you signed, but unless you both agreed to it upfront, it’s unethical.

I was under the impression is that the default is for the artist to retain the copyright to a work unless there is a contract that says otherwise.

Just ask Bill Gates.

IANAL either, but if there is a signed contract before the work starts that calls for the design of a logo, then I’d assume that the work is a work-for-hire and the copyright would belong to the party paying the artist.

I’ll be a little more specific. Everyone would be saying “Bill who?” if you couldn’t reuse the material created for others except when there’s an explicit contract stating otherwise.

Apparently that would be a bad assumption. Having done some more reading on this, a work-for-hire situation only exists if a) the work is one of nine types covered by copyright law AND b) the two parties have a written agreement stating that it is a work for hire. If a) doesn’t apply then merely calling it a work for hire is not sufficient and the client must have it written into the contract that copyright ownership is assigned to them. Otherwise, the creator of the work retains copyright ownership.

In the case of Gates there was a contract that explicitly allowed Gates to sell DOS to anyone. Oddly enough, Seattle Computing, the company from which Gates purchased QDOS (quick and dirty operating system) retained the right to sell it provided it was bundled with hardware. Someone writing for Byte wondered why they didn’t package it with a memory chip and sell it. Then there’s the fascinating story of the BIOS which IBM did develop and own. They could and did protect the program but could not prevent someone from duplicating the functionality. The company that did that sold licenses for it for nearly $300,000.

I suppose there is a common law answer in the absence of a contract.

I’m not talking about DOS. Gates got started by writing a version of BASIC for MITS. They, and almost everyone but Bill assumed that since he got paid he had no right to resell the work product. He did, selling it as Microsoft BASIC, which put him in the position to deal with IBM in the first place. He was sued, and he won.

nobody gives a shit anymore. let it go.

It’s the answer to the OP.

[Moderator Note]

This kind of comment is inappropriate for GQ. No warning issued, but please confine yourself to addressing the actual issues.

General Questions Moderator

It varies by jurisdiction. e.g. In New Zealand, that would be known as a commissioned work and copyright would reside with the person that commissioned it, not the designer.

Under American law, unless there is an explicit agreement otherwise, the copyright belongs to the designer (the work for hire exception is noted above). However, if there are two companies using confusingly similar logos, there is a potential for a trademark dispute.

I once was hired as a Court Artist for local TV News. I was paid, but there was some confusion over if they were paying me as an artist, or paying for the artwork itself.

I got to keep half the art, and the other half was kept by them, over this confusion. I had planned to sell the art on again afterwards to a separate (printed) news organisation, though that didn’t pan out.

I’m still not sure where exactly I stood over it all. But no contracts were signed at any time.