Sorry for the length of this post, but I believe this topic and all comments can benefit everyone.
This topic isn't Flash specific (and I will also post this in the Dreamweaver/Photoshop forum), but in part it "does" pertain to graphic design created in Photoshop (along with web development created using Dreamweaver & all other necessary software). My questions are about ethics in the freelance market of design. I'm looking for links to websites that people have found good/legal information concerning "best practices" and/or “legal protection copyrights” for the lone designer. I would also appreciate any/all thoughts/comments about other freelance designers (mainly Photoshop and Dreamweaver) pertaining to how they "run their business both ethnically and in legal terms", or any similar experiences they have had and what the ultimate solution was.
My main concern is this: I've been a freelance designer (graphic, web, audio, video) for many years, and have been contracted out for many projects. On numerous occasions, I've been contracted out by another designer (who basically only works in Photoshop/Illustrator - I will call him Joe). Throughout the years, we seem to butt heads more and more about "what is acceptable and appropriate" when it comes to the client and the whole "process" of the design stages.
For example, a client comes to Joe for a website - they supply him with conceptual details - Joe approaches me with these details and I quote my price for my involvement - Joe types up a simple contract (it's actually just an invoice for the client) - ultimately Joe designs a mock-up of the website interface in Photoshop (menu, navigation, fonts used, colors, etc), and will sometimes include an example of what a particular web page will look like. That's basically the end of his involvement in the design process. Of course, Joe maintains direct contact with the client if I have questions he can't answer (which only delays the whole process).
My involvement usually includes:
1. domain registration, account setup, hosting setup, create email accounts, ftp setup, SEO, and things of that nature
2. sometimes I have to re-work the Photoshop document for proper output to HTML (slices, etc), and/or importing into Flash
4. build, test, and eventually launch the website
Now, when it comes to the files/documents I create, what rights do I have pertaining to ownership of the design and/or copyright of all my work? For example, Joe expects me to release (to him) any/all layered Photoshop documents (.psd) and/or Illustrator files (.ai) I had to personally create in order to make some of the graphical elements he wasn't able to. Joe also expects me to give him any/all Flash documents (.fla) and/or layered video edits (like session files for Vegas) used in creating additional content for the website. In a given Flash document, there is custom action script, and many times Flash components I have had to purchase.
I've explained to Joe (and this is where I need to know in legal terms whether I'm right or not) that any documents/files I personally create from scratch (layered Photoshop, Flash, Video, Audio), I do NOT have to supply him with those original/layered documents/files. When the website is completed and launched, I place my name and Joe's name on the bottom (as designed by so-n-so). These websites are added to my online portfolio. It is my belief that NO ONE but me or Joe should have the legal right to edit/alter/change anything on the website (especially pertaining to any original work I've created). For example, if I create a header banner (with many layers in Photoshop), and place the exported image on the website, can the client alter/add to (or have someone other than me or Joe) any part of that banner? An example would be a client didn't want to have to pay me for updating the banner, so the client had someone else (an amateur) add something to that graphic (which made the banner look cheap - in addition to altering other parts of the website). If a potential client of mine looks at this website and thinks that cheap banner is the extent of my work, that could have a negative effect on my business and potential profit.
Simply put, when a freelance designer (or even a corporate designer for all purposes) creates something for the web, what legal protections are in place if the client allows another to alter the content (even if it’s as simple as taking a flattened jpg and adding to it)? Also, am I obligated by any law or “unwritten ethics” to supply Joe (or the client) any original files I’ve created? I feel as long as my name is on that website (even if it's taken off by someone), I have an unwritten copyright to any/all original designs. If I have no protection against being able to maintain ownership of original documents I create, then anyone can basically “takeover” and change any/all my work. This can negatively affect so many things as a freelance designer and ultimately take me out of the profit loop.
I appreciate all legitimate comments and/or related stories. Thanks...
I forgot something...
Being contracted by another designer, should I have to wait until HE gets paid by the client before I get paid? This is another issue that comes up a lot. I feel I should be paid as if I am working for Joe (and not be under any restrictions as to when the client pays Joe). One last thing, how many days should be allowed for a client to pay me directly, or for me to be paid by a contractor?
Message was edited by: Shan-Dysigns