Designers: 4 Must-Have Clauses in a Contract
Freelancers, you have learned to never start work without a written contract, but it’s hard to like contracts. They’re impossible to read, long, and tedious, and you can’t wait to sign that piece of paper to get it done and get to the real work. Well, this post is here to help.Contracts are pretty crucial in a designer’s career, and despite your apprehensions with legal documents, it’s worth getting into some specific details that can make a huge difference in practice.From a legal standpoint, these are rights that every freelance designer should try not to give away by waiver or assignment.This won’t always be possible, but remember that every “no” you get from a client can be used as leverage to convince them to pay more for your design work. Here’s what you should look out for.1. Portfolio Display Rights & Moral RightsPortfolio rights are simply the permission to display the work in your portfolio after it’s done. Few clients have a problem in granting you this (as long as it is for personal use), but if you’re under a work-for-hire contract, these rights are not automatically granted.In fact, you may need to ask them if you want to add screenshots of your work or reproductions to your own website.Portfolio display rights usually drag in another set of rights called “moral rights“. Moral rights include the right of attribution, the right to have a work published under a pseudonym or anonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work.It doesn’t feel great to have your design completely destroyed by someone else after you handed it over, particularly if your name is attached to it.Sell Your Work, Not Your Rights To ItThe legal implications of moral rights are pretty complicated, also because they change greatly from state to state. In most European countries, they are inalienable, i.e., you can’t sell them away in a contract.On the other hand, in the US, a waiver of moral rights is pretty standard for any commissioned work.The Safety NetIn some instances, you might want to tackle the opposite problem: what if someone sees your sketches in the proposal and decides to copy the idea without hiring you? If this is something you fear, add a notice of confidentiality to any proposal you send.3. The right to walk awayIf things start to go the wrong way halfway through the project, there comes the urge to drop the project and cut losses. Whoa… not that fast. Once you have signed a contract, you’re legally bound to finish the project and deliver what is promised.This is particularly bad if you are working on a fixed fee, as any estimation error in pricing the project can ring up time and financial losses.Last Resort Exit StrategyWhile a kill fee usually takes care of things on the client’s side, it’s up to you to prepare an emergency parachute for yourself, the service provider. Try to add in the option to terminate the agreement, with reasonable notice, like in this Consulting Agreement:“Termination. Either party may terminate the contract at any time through written request. The Company shall upon termination pay Consultant all unpaid amounts due for Services completed prior to notice of termination.”4. The Right To Solve Disputes Near YouThis right is usually granted by law to consumers. Consumers are generally the weak party when litigating with a big company, and having to litigate in another state is very expensive. That’s why, for example, consumers from the European Union can always sue in their local district court.With design agreements, however, you’re on your own, so have a look at the jurisdiction…
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