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The Fine Print

April 10, 2012

When it comes to reading contracts, does the expression, “read the fine print” sound familiar? As far as I’m concerned, it’s ALL fine print. Contracts must be read thoroughly from cover page to the very last attachment, understood completely and digested well.

Recently, I’ve been reading a number of contracts for projects I’m involved in and I’ve learned they don’t need to be written in incomprehensible ‘legalese’ (legal jargon), but must contain a few basic inclusions.

They must clearly state who the contract is between, what it includes, how long the contract is for, where it will be undertaken and how much will be paid.

In addition to this ‘bare minimum’, some of the big ticket issues I commonly address in contracts as a creative are:

1. Intellectual Property (IP) – Will I retain IP in the work I create for my client or will it be passed to the client? (This also applies to copyright)

2. Usage – Specific usage for designs must be outlined (ie: If I create a design for a t-shirt, it can only be used by the client on a t-shirt, not on banners advertising their business)

3. Acknowledgement – Will I be acknowledged as the creator of the work? (eg: If a photo of an artwork I create for the client appears in a publication, I must be appropriately credited as the artist)

4. Time Limits – Will a time limit apply to licensed designs? (ie: Is there an agreed time frame in which the client can use the designs I create for them?)

DesignSponge has a short, clear article offering some general information on what contracts should contain in their Biz Ladies series. Of course, it’s best to have your own legal representative review any contract that either you write yourself or intend on engaging in with another party. One thing is for sure… Always have a written contract, even if a project starts organically and informally and with someone you already know, having a simple contract will help you maintain clear boundaries and honest communication.

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