Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Pissed off in Pittsburgh

Dear Bonnie,

What is the wisest thing to do when a larger design agency takes your work and publicly claims that it is their own?

Pissed off in Pittsburgh

Dear P.,

Have you spoken with said agency about this? It could be that someone who didn’t know better attributed the agency with solo credit based on any number of assumptions. A phone call to them and a correction could make this go away with no hard feelings and appropriate kudos to you.

If that isn’t the case, my next question would be whether you had a contract that spelled out the details and terms of attribution. If it was a work for hire, they may have every right to claim the work as their own and you may not even be able to show the work on your own website. Contracts are all about hoping for the best and planning for the worst. A good contract doesn’t necessarily mean you get everything you want, but it does mean you know what to expect in every situation that arises. We put too much heart and soul (not to mention time and money) into what we do to leave these things to chance or trust. Spelling them out beforehand covers all sorts of possible conflicts—from what happens if your particular component of a project becomes the main focus of the project to who owns the work if it never gets used.

So, make sure you you spend the time and money to draft a comprehensive contract that protects you. 

I will say, that sometimes it can feel sort of weirdly satisfying to have a totally valid complaint. Feeling undeniably “right” is very powerful. In this particular case though, as with many others in life, before you get angry, I strongly suggest you try a courteous phone call that gives them the benefit of the doubt. Calling someone out may be more satisfying in the moment, but it will really never get you what you wanted all along: respect.

Comments [1]

Great written!!
Taposy Rabeya

Jobs | February 23