For many years clients have been unaware of what they are paying for when they settle the agency’s invoice. A good example is when a client has commissioned photography. It has been standard practice for many years that a photograph is only purchased for the usage for which the client has specified and that in fact the rights over the future use of the image are retained by the photographer!
Don't fall into the Copyright trap!
This kind of copyright trap has left many clients believing they have bought more than they have, which has often led to infringements of copyright and restricted freedom for the client to swap agencies. In this climate of economic difficulty, these kind of practices are a little unfair. It should be clear what clients are buying and what rights they have.
Check the small print - do you own the Copyright?
This is wider than just photography, if you have a new logo, the creative copyrights are retained by the individual who created the logo. There are many well known companies that do not own their own logos. All creative rights must be assigned in writing before the invoice is generated and should be included in the engagement contract. If the development of a contract seems a little formal then we would strongly recommend a close examination of the agency terms and conditions to see if the assignment of copyright is covered within the agreement.
Websites & DNS
Beyond copyright we have also found that a good number of clients have relied on their agencies to buy domain names and host web sites on their behalf, this is fine but you need to make sure that the domain name (web address) has been registered in your name and not through your agency's account and also, that you know your DNS log in details (these are the passwords that allow you to point your domain name at any given server). It is also a good ideas to develop an asset register that contains the key components of your marketing collateral and formal assignment of ownership.
Money well spent!
Several years ago we decided to make sure that all creative works were commissioned with exclusive rights as part of the commissioning fee. These are then assigned to our own clients making sure that they own everything. Agencies should act on behalf of the client making sure their rights are protected and their money is well spent. If you have concerns you should get someone in you trust to sit down and do an IP (Intellectual Property) marketing audit, it could save you a lot of money!