Graphic designer legal issues

There are several pieces of legislation that apply to graphic designers. They cover areas such as copyrighting and design regulations.

What licences does a graphic designer need?

There are no licensing requirements relating specifically to graphic designers.

Be aware though that data protection legislation may require businesses which keep computerised records of individuals' personal details to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). If this applies to your business and you are not covered by an exemption you will have to pay a small fee to register. You can find out more on the ICO website.

What legislation applies to graphic designers?

Some of the key areas where legislation is likely to affect your business are listed below. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Copyright matters

Copyright legislation is in place to protect the work that you create and prevents you from using other people's work without their authorisation. In many cases you may be prepared to assign your rights in your original work to your client or license them to use it while retaining ownership. This is something to be agreed between you and your client and should be clearly set out in any contract between you. If you have employees you should make clear in their contract of employment that the copyright of any work they produce belongs to you, their employer.

It's important to familiarise yourself with the law so that you are aware of your own and others' rights. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is responsible for intellectual property matters in the UK. The IPO section of the Gov.uk website includes detailed information and guidance on copyright matters.

Regulations affecting design

When you design a letterhead, promotional material or other business stationery for a company (whether in hard copy or digital format) remember that certain company details must by law be included on things like letterheads, order forms and other formal documents as well as on the company's website. You can find out more on the Gov.uk website.

Also be aware of the requirements of the equality and anti-discrimination laws if you are designing websites, in terms of accessibility for people with a disability. You can find out more about designing accessible websites and web tools on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) website.

If you do work for food manufacturers and producers it makes sense to familiarise yourself with the requirements of the various food labelling regulations. Visit the Food Standards Agency website for details.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include recruitment, employment contracts, pay, working hours, holidays, employment policies, sickness, maternity, paternity, discrimination, discipline, grievances, dismissals, redundancies and employment tribunals.

Health & Safety, fire

You must make sure that you comply with health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Insurance for a graphic designer

When you start up in business you will need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain how your business will operate. They will then be able to recommend what cover you should have which might include:

  • employer's liability
  • public liability
  • professional indemnity insurance
  • legal costs associated with protection of own copyright and with defending against claims by others that their copyright has been breached
  • premises, premises contents
  • personal accident and travel
  • loss of earnings
  • motor insurance

The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) has negotiated preferential rates on customised professional indemnity insurance for its members. The CSD also offers members access to specialist legal advice on protecting IP rights and assistance with copyright disputes. You can find out more about this and other membership benefits on the CSD website.

When comparing insurance quotes, uncover the differences between policies by using an insurance comparison form

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