Freelancers' Questions: Can I display client work?

Freelancer’s Question: I need some legal advice on displaying work in my portfolio. My previous employer where I was contracted as a freelance consultant for 8 months is not allowing me to display the work I created while under contract. I have only asked to display the branding and website I did for his site not the clients but he won't allow me to do this.

On taking the job I signed a contract to say the IP was his on anything I created under employment. I also renegotiated my contract which I had to honour the second I signed it but he didn't pay me the new wage for 2 months after it was signed. Does this void the contract as he hasn't upheld his part of the contract? If so, I am free to display the work in spite of his objections?

I have read that I can display the work under moral rights which is supported in Europe, so does this mean I can upload the work to my portfolio to display it? I have also read on the Intellectual Property Office that I can display the work as long as I don't re-sell the work or change it.

Expert’s Answer : You have been commissioned to create a form of intellectual property and have no rights to the work as these have been assigned to the customer in the contract. The main issue is the lack of payment. Arguably as the client has not paid for the works, then you will be able to exercise a lien over the work and not allow the client to use them. However your avenue to do this will depend on the terms of the contract you have signed. In that contract, you must have terms which will deal with the scenario where the client refuses to pay for work carried out if you are to pursue this avenue.

In the context of intellectual property, moral rights refer to the right to be acknowledged as the author of a particular work and also the right to object to derogatory treatment of that work. But again you would need to refer to the contract to see if you have waived your right to the moral rights. Believe it or not, doing so is not uncommon in the UK, particularly in the field of advertising. For freelancers, there is no obligation to waive these rights, but often you have no choice as you will not get paid and it is a requirement in the contract.

The expert was Jody Tsigarides, of the internet and e-commerce team at Lawdit Solicitors.


Mar 11, 2010
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