In this week’s Designer Breakfast, which looked to address these issues, Susan Griggs, a photographers’ agent who fought the battle to change UK law to allow photographers and illustrators to keep the copyright of their work, urged designers to unite and be more forceful for the rights to their intellectual property.
On one level, Griggs’ argument was very simple – if you’re creating something for a client – say a photograph for an advert, then the client should pay you for that particular usage. If the client then wants to, for example, broadcast that photograph in space, then they should pay you again.
This is the model that works in photography, in TV and in many other industries – so why not in design? Why do we get instances like that highlighted by Luke Pearson of Pearson Lloyd, who says his consultancy was involved in a pitch for a project that could have been worth £2 million for the client – and for a token fee of £5000 Pearson Lloyd was asked to hand over its IP?
Well for one thing the design industry isn’t like other sectors, it’s sprawling, disconnected and touches on every type of creation for every type of client. It’s not as clear-cut as, for example, photography.
But there are other, more solvable, reasons. For starters, IP and copyright (along with many other business issues) are barely covered on most design courses. The result is a situation where design graduates have spent three or four years honing their craft skills only to be released into the industry with no idea of how to make money – and avoid getting ripped off by clients.
There also seems to be a lack of communication over the issue. Several panellists at the Designer Breakfast asked whether or not the design industry had an organisation lobbying for change before an understandably frustrated Design Business Association chief executive Deborah Dawton pointed out that the DBA had – amongst other things – examples of contracts and case studies of copyright protection for designers to make use of.
Design is, of course, not like other sectors – it’s far bigger and it cuts far deeper. A one-size-fits-all approach to something like IP would be a disaster in design. But that leaves the onus on individual consultancies to solve their own problems – and there are plenty of organisations, not least the DBA and Anti-Copying in Design, to support them.
So if you want to get paid for your work – all your work – then the help is there for you to work out a copyright arrangement. But you also need to help yourself.