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Template & Agreement

Copyright Agreement

Illustration of copyright symbol Illustration: Adam Hilborn for The Business of Graphic Design Handbook

Copyright Agreement


Free for Members and non-Members

Copyright Agreement


A copyright agreement is a contract between a client and a designer which outlines who has the legal right to produce, reproduce or publish original work created by the designer.

There are three common types of copyright licensing to consider when negotiating with your client:

One-time rights

When the client buys one-time rights, the client will only be allowed to use the work created by the designer for one use while the designer retains all copyrights. If the client wants to use the artwork again, they would need to negotiate the associated fees with the designer. This type of copyright agreement is common for ad campaigns, illustration work, photography, etc.

Unlimited rights

With unlimited rights, the client is granted unlimited rights to use the designer’s work as many times as they wish. This type of copyright agreement is common for logo identity design.

Buy-out of copyright

With a buy-out of copyright, the client is granted full rights to the designer’s work, but the designer can retain the rights to use the work in their portfolio.

When to use this form

A copyright agreement should be used at the beginning of every project to establish the client’s rights to reproducing the designer’s work. The terms and costs associated with the usage rights can also be incorporated into the client estimate.

Special considerations

For Freelancers

Consider negotiating the terms of your copyright agreements not only with your clients, but also any design studios you may work with. Copyright agreements can be incorporated into General Independent Contractor Agreements and Project-specific Independent Contractor Agreements.

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