Keeping your work on the right side of the law

Avoid the mistake of infringing someone else’s intellectual property by sticking to these rules.

design copyright

Illustration by Tommy Parker

We know it wouldn't be done on purpose, but there are some ways that you could unknowingly infringe upon someone's else intellectual property. Ensure you avoid any copyright accidents with this expert advice.

01. Don't use Google Image search

Lots of creatives tell us this regularly. It's impossible to track where images might come from and who owns them once they're slapped on a mood board, and the slightest error when creating hundreds of project assets can cost you dearly.

02. Don't take on dodgy work

Clients can also be the initiators of copyright issues. If you're asked to produce something you're uncomfortable with, or to copy an existing piece of design by a client who has little or no imagination, walk away – not only will these types of projects do your portfolio few favours; it could see you being labelled a design plagiarist.

03. Don't take chances

Freelancers and smaller studios will most likely be supplied assets and key visuals by the client or client's agency. Don't assume they're all legitimate, though. Services like Image Exchange by Picscout help you trace copyright images.

04. Check your licences

Before you hand over a completed project, check all of the licences that might be associated with the assets. For example, any stock imagery might require a commercial fee; any fonts which are embedded into a UX design or app need the appropriate licences; and make sure you check the time-periods of each licence as well as which countries and formats are included.

Words: Tom Dennis

This article was originally featured in Computer Arts issue 245.

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