Creative Latitude

  About the author  

Faith Martin is the principal of Longview Studios, a one person independent
graphic design studio located in Tallahassee, Florida.

Certified as a commercial artist (graphic designer in today's lingo) in 1998
she provides print design services and consulting for small businesses and

Ms. Martin's seven years of experience includes a stint providing technical
graphics expertise to a legal publishing company as well as instituting a
method for tracking their large database of previously collected diagrams.
Re-creating city seals for foil stamping, untangling two-hundred page PDF
files and laying out the company cookbook made for an "interesting" mix of

Opening Longview Studios in 2001 provided an opportunity to implement
creative solutions for a more varied client base. Identity, ads, posters and
award winning newsletters have been part of the creative mix.



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Creative Rights and Leasing A Car...It's Pretty Much the Same
by Faith Martin
The rights associated with creative work are one of the most misunder-
stood areas of this profession. I've been giving it a great deal of thought lately. How do I explain that because you are using a design the copyright doesn't belong to you unless you specifically paid for it?

As I was driving along in my car today, it hit me. You can either lease the use of a car for a pre-designated amount of time and rate or you can buy it outright. The same is true of buying creative rights. You can lease the use of it for a pre-determined amount of time for a pre-determined use such as one time rights used in a magazine or you can buy all the rights for a higher price. It depends on what the contract says. If there is no contract, you do not automatically own any work done on your behalf. The person who provided the creative work owns the copyright (and the files), just as the leasing company owns the car.

So if you drive a leased car for two years, (the pre-determined time stated in your lease contract), at the end of that time when you take it back to the dealer do you insist that because you have been driving it for two years you legally now own the car? I doubt if the leasing company is going to see it that way. You can talk till you're blue in the face and you can threaten to bad mouth them to all your friends, relatives and business associates but the fact still remains you don't legally own the car. You have two choices, you can turn it in or you can buy it outright for the buyout amount.

I found out a few other interesting facts that seems to apply to both situations. Maintenance. The leasing company is responsible for routine maintenance, but they aren't responsible for upgrades. They aren't responsible for adding new gizmos and they aren't responsible for fixing your car if you're in an accident. As a matter of fact, if you bring the car back and there is more than "normal wear and tear" there is a penalty fee. They aren't responsible for fixing the car if you have an unauthorized person (your nephew in high school that likes to tinker with cars maybe?) screw it up or make "modifications" to it. The contract will state that you cannot make modifications to the car you are leasing. Now if you decide to buy the car after the leasing period has expired, that's another story. You paid a lot of money for it. The title is in your name and if you want to hire someone to "modify" it, you have every right to do so. But don't expect the leasing company to give you their tools to do it.

I found all this interesting because when we lease a car we don't argue about the conditions under which we are leasing the car. We might check the figures and the formula and make sure that all the math is correct, but we don't expect them to change their contract to suit us. We accept that there are certain conditions attached to getting the car for a little bit less for the joy of driving it for two years and then being able to turn it in and lease another new car with a new contract and a new leasing rate.

Most people don't spend that time trying to figure out how they can pull the wool over the leasing company's eyes and get them to sign the title over to them at the end of the lease period. And they don't try to remove that fabulous car stereo system so they can keep on using it in another cheaper vehicle.

No, they understand that there are legal limitations and conditions and unless they are truly low-life and have absolutely no ethics at all, they accept those as part of the deal.

Creative work is the same. There are contracts and there are ethical guidelines that we expect to follow and we expect our clients to honor.

Some of the above regarding leasing a car may seem pretty obvious to you and you're saying to yourself "Well, duh! That's just good business." That is precisely the point. It's just good business. It seems when it comes to creative work all the good business practices that any reputable business follows just flies out the window and those in the creative industry are expected to play by different rules.

© 2005 Faith Martin, Longview Studios

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