Comissioned but not paid

'Is it legal', 'can I do this' type questions and discussions.
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r2red
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Comissioned but not paid

Post by r2red » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:44 pm

Hi
I have a t-shirt printing company.
I was asked to make some designs for a company who want to sell a range of 'fun' cricket themed t-shirts.
The agreement was that we would go into partnership, I would make their designs, and also any others that I thought would sell some of the designs were their ideas and others were mine. I did the designs and printed a nubmer of t-shirts but have not been paid or recompensed in any way. They have offered to pay me a minimal sum for printing the t-shirts but refuse to pay for the designs.
I have asked them to stop selling the t-shirts on their website but they have refused.
What rights do I have?


thanks for any advice

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AndyJ
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Post by AndyJ » Wed Oct 20, 2010 8:04 pm

This problem concerns two separate parts of the law: Copyright and Contract. As this forum is about Copyright I will concentrate on that aspect. For more detailed advice on the contract side it would be worth contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau, or if you can afford it, a solicitor.

I have made a few assumptions here, namely that this agreement was not written down, that you were not an employee of the company at the time, that none of the designs you made were registered with either the UK IPO or the EU IPO, and that the designs you are talking about were text and /or graphical in form and applied to ordinary tee-shirts, and that you didn't also design the garments.

Fairly clearly you own the copyright in the designs you made. From the sound of it, there was an implied licence for the company to print up and sell your designs, and so they have not infringed your copyright as such. What they have failed to do is honour the verbal contract that you would be recompensed for the licence to use your designs. The fact that you were paid for the samples you delivered to them is a separate matter. You mentioned the intention to form a partnership but unless this was put into a formal written document (a deed) then the law does not recognise that anything other than a contract exists between you.

I suggest you do two things. Firstly write the company, asserting that you own the copyright in the designs you made (possibly attach photocopies of all your designs so they are quite clear which ones you are talking about) and say that in view of the fact that they have not paid you as previously agreed for the licence to use your designs you are suspending the licence with immediate effect, pending full and fair payment. Point out that if they continue to use your designs after this date you will consider that to be infringement of your copyright under Section 16(1) of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 and that you reserve the right to seek legal remedy if necessary. Secondly (probably in the same envelope) send them an invoice for the amount of the licence fee you think is fair, bearing in mind the discussions you had at the time about the agreement. For instance if it was discussed that they would print off 2000 tee-shirts, base your fee on your share of the likely profits. You can include an additional sum for any future sales so long as it is a reasonable and realistic assessment. Say that you wish the invoice to be paid in full within 30 calendar days. Send the letter by registered post to their company office. Use the Royal Mail online tracking service to see when the letter was delivered and signed for.

That covers your options for both areas. If they do not stop using your designs you will have a strong case in copyright to back up your breach of contract complaint. You do not want to go down the copyright route if possible, for several reasons: it's much slower, you will probably need to be legally represented (and therefore costly) and the remedies such as damages will be similar to what you asked for in the invoice. Assuming they also do not pay your invoice, the second option is there. The breach of contract route, although potenially just as long-winded and expensive, has the advantage of allowing you to use the Small Claims Court system to resolve matters, because it is effectively recovering a debt owed to you. If they do stop production but don't pay your invoice you are in the same position in respect of the debt.

So if after the 30 days have elapsed they have neither paid nor begun serious negotiations about the amount demanded, you could take your claim to the Small Claims Court (http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/info ... /index.htm). But as I said earlier I suggest you seek further advice first before going down that route. Arbitration http://www.nationalmediationhelpline.com/ is another way forward.

r2red
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Post by r2red » Thu Oct 21, 2010 8:48 am

Thank you so much for your advice. I did contact C Advice but they basically said that I needed to seek copyright law assistance.

On the contract side, I wouldnt dream of entering into any form of contract with them now, and this may be a blessing in disguise, since they have been very one-sided since the start. I put that down initially to their eagerness to get the project off the ground, but now it appears that it was simply selfishness.

I will take your advice and contact them today.

thanks
Darren

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