Ethics and copyright with design work

Hi guys,

I wondered if anyone could offer any advice for my issue.
I’ve worked extensively for a company for over two years and have a good relationship with them.
Recently they referred one of their suppliers to me who wanted their logos placed on previously created artwork.
I agreed to do this for a small charge and made it clear that the artwork supplied should only be used for purpose of email distribution/print.
I have since found that the supplier has sent my artwork provided in PDF form to another design agency who have ripped apart all the elements and have reused my design work to create media across websites etc.
The re-use also includes images from license royalty photos which I have paid for and now they are using.

I sent them an firm email explaining why this was bad ethics and that they would need to pay a license fee to use the artwork.
The license agreement I agreed to is now being broken by a third party and of course my business is losing money over manipulated artwork, even though I supplied the completed artwork for a print process.
They have not paid full design costs purely for a rebrand. The company have now become unresponsive.

It’s not about the money but the poor ethics especially as they were a referral from a trusted company, what I don’t want to do is cause such a rift that it affects my relationship with the main company.

I have considered putting security on my artwork PDF’s but these can be so easily broken nowadays there’s not much point, additionally as this particular project was for email distribution it would of hindered the client base.

Thank you so much in advance for any responses.

How did you make it clear? Was there a contract involved?

Ralph, thanks so much for taking the time to reply to me.

Stupidly there was no “signed” contract but the details were agreed on phone and email but no official signatures.
If that’s what it will take to deter some of the bad ethics in the future can you point me in the right direction on the kind of agreement that would cover these issues?

Email is still a contract, it’s written proof that you agreed the project under certain terms. The main problem is that emails tend to be written more casually than a contract, so the wording may be ambiguous.

TBH, many people do not care for, nor understand the point behind restrictive licenses such as ‘you can only use this for print, not web’, other than assume you are doing it to gouge more money out of them in the future. All they know is that they paid you for your time and they want to do with the images as they please. It’s not always about ‘poor ethics’ - to a lay person (and even people in your own industry) these licenses seem unnecessarily restrictive.

On its own, making them sign a contract probably wont make much difference TBH. Clearly communicating the reasoning behind the licenses would work better, but for me, I just do away with all that, charge them for my time and give them the files for them to do as they please. That way they are a happier client and are more likely to come back to me with further work, rather than take their business elsewhere to a developer with less licenses for them to deal with.

Thanks for your input Shadow, I do agree with you that the restrictive licenses is a hard concept when you don’t work in the field. However in this instance this particular “client” was quoted a minimal charge for a logo placement. I overlooked the fact that he only requested this so he could get the full design to send to a cheaper agency. So there’s no return work there other than ripping work off. The only positive thing to come out of it is the images he has used were in draft form so he could avoid even the minimal cost. Of course this means when the other designer picked up the work the quality is very poor. Being a designer and proud of my work I’m not sure which annoys me more the bad ethics or that my work is now portrayed in such a poor light.

Moving forward an “email contract” could easily be misconstrued so in the future I will probably lay out an official agreement so everything is crystal clear. Does anyone know what this kind of agreement would be called or could provide samples of the best terminology to use, I’m a designer not a legal specialist but understand the importance of having something in place. If anyone could provide any further advice I would be very grateful indeed.