Freelance Design – Copyright Law

If you’re a freelance designer then you’ll probably be well aware of the laws regarding copyright. To summarise briefly, your work has to be easily distinguishable as your own effort and not somebody else’s.

For example, a design with an orange outline with a bite mark out of it (similar to Apple’s but an orange shape instead) that doesn’t say Apple anywhere and has slightly different curves in the design could in a lot of cases be considered original. This is why sometimes in court it is very difficult to prove your work is yours and it’s even harder than coming up with something that is considered ‘original’.

So how can you get things right to start with? Well, firstly you should research logos before you start the design process. This is not to take ideas, though it can inspire you to be creative but to check and see if any other companies in the client’s industry have logos similar to your initial thoughts. You need to really get to know the background of the company and get to the root of their story to understand how they’re different.

Once you know this, you can get creative without any worries. Of course, there may be times when in fact you create a logo similar to someone else’s but it will help your case if you make sure that no companies in some industries have a similar logo because that would prove to be a tricky court case.

It’s also important to know what cannot be copyrighted. So here’s the full list:

  • Titles
  • Slogans
  • Names
  • Measurement Charts
  • Calendars
  • Symbols
  • Variations of lettering or colouring

These are just trademarked and not copyright, so it’s all about coming up with your own ideas, thinking about the company’s history. If you put in the time, it will show in your design. If you cheat and copy somebody else’s you could be in for some trouble.

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