Task 3: Understand legal and ethical constraints

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual Property Rights are a set of protections for the creator of Intellectual Property. The different types of protections for Intellectual Property are:

  • Copyright

    Gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it. Applies to a wide range of mediums, such as web content, photography, illustrations etc. The creator will automatically gain Copyright protection upon the creation of their work. It protects the creator from others copying the work, distributing the work, adapting the work and displaying the work. It may be necessary to apply for copyright in other countries, though there are international copyright agreements. The length of the copyright varies depending on the type of media. Copyright doesn’t cover ideas but rather their form of manner of expression, for example, an idea for a novel can not be copyrighted whereas the written novel can be.

  • Patents

    Patents are used to protect inventions and give the holder the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells, offers to sell or import their invention. In order to be given a patent, the inventor must publicly disclose the information of the invention. For a patent application to be successful the inventor needs to prove the following: new, inventive and applicable. That is it can’t be an obvious idea, can’t be a modification of a previous idea and must be able to be used or made. Patents are only applicable to the country in which they are applied for, it is possible to apply for a patent in multiple countries by applying under the Patent Cooperation Treaty, for example.

  • Design Rights

    Design Rights protect the visual design of something that is not purely utilitarian, that is to say the aesthetics of it. For 3D objects, you automatically gain the design right when its designed. For 2D designs, such as wallpapers or graphics, the design right needs to be applied for. To claim design right you need to provide proof, which can either be copies of design drawings or photographs held be a bank or solicitor, or sent to yourself via registered, dated post and left unopened.

  • Trademarks

    A Trademark is used to protect your brand, this can be product names or logos. Holding a Trademark allows you to take action against anyone using your brand without permission and allows you to sell and license your brand. By holding a Trademark you can apply the ® symbol to your brand to indicate it is protected.

  • Trade Dress

    Trade Dress is a protection for the visual appearance and characteristics of how a product is packaged that signify the source of the product. For example, the Apple Stores are protected under Trade Dress due to their unique layout and design. Trade Dress can also apply to things such as Magazine covers or a restaurant chains decor and colour scheme.

In relation to digital design, Copyright and Trademarks are perhaps the most relevant. As a designer any photographs or illustrations created are immediately protected under Copyright. Logos and branding can be protected under Trademark if applied for.


Creative Commons

Creative Commons licenses is something that one can apply to their own work which gives you protection on how the image is used. There a various different versions of CC licenses, each with their own limitations and allowances.
A breakdown of the Creative Commons Licenses:

  • Lets others distribute, remix, tweak,  and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.


  • This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


  • This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.


  • This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.


  • This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


  • Only allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.


  • Allows content creators to opt out of database and copyright protection, allowing their work to be available as freely as possible in the public domain.

Other ways to Copyright protect an Image

There are numerous other methods to protect your work from being used without permission. A common example is by including your website’s URL or name below the image in the actual image file. This would mean if anyone directly copied or hot-linked the image on their website it would display your information. Of course, they could simply crop the image to remove the text. This can be combatted by applying a watermark or watermarks to the image. This is text or an image overlayed on the image. This does provide more protection to the image, as it is time consuming to remove the watermark, particularly if the watermark is placed over key areas of the image, but is more intrusive and can detract from the image. Another option is to use HTML to overlay a transparent image to your image. This would mean that if someone were to try to copy the image, they would instead get a transparent image file. This does not prevent your image from being copied by using a screenshot however, and a more technically literate individual could access the required image from examining the page source. It is also possible to use javascript to prevent the user from right clicking on your website, this would prevent the user from being able to access the Save Image command but could also prevent them from reaching other commands in the Right Click Menu that would be useful. Another method which would prevent search engines from indexing your images is by editing your sites robots.txt. Using the right command can prevent bots from indexing your site and storing copies of your images on their server, for example stopping your files from being on Google Images. There are also numerous third party softwares created to help protect a creators image on the web. These can provide the aforementioned solutions in one package and more. For example CopySafe requires the user to install a plugin to be able to access the protected content. The plugin then restricts the user from copying the files while still being able to view them without any obstructions. These more extreme options can however put off the user from visiting your content.

Searching for Protected Images

On Flickr

Flickr allows their users to apply various licenses to their work when they upload it. This then allows visitors to search for work and filter it by the type of license.

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.52.37.png

For example, after entering a search term on flickr you can then filter the results by the license type. The above screenshot shows filtering by all Creative Commons Licenses. You can also filter by more specific license limitations. When viewing an image flickr presents an icon of the relevant CC license applied to it, clicking on it will bring you to the relevant license page on the Creative Commons website.

On Google Images

Google Image Search will keep any information on usage rights of images it indexes. When a user searches they can then filter the results by usage rights, done by selecting Search Tools from the menu and selecting the required option from Usage Rights

Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.58.39.png

Ethical Constraints

A question often arises as to who owns the copyright for a design, the designer or the client. It may seem logical that as the client payed for the design they would become the full owner if it once completed. However, Copyright law states that it is the designer who owns the Copyright and receive Copyright Protection automatically. Therefore, when hired to create work for a client, unless stated in the contract, the designer will own the copyright to the work. An exception is if the designer is employed by a company. If the client hires the company to undertake design work, and you are the person who actual makes the design, you do not own the copyright, rather your employer does.

If clients are being difficult, the best way to deal with them is professionally. Highlight to them the terms of the contract and explain what it means, if they require work or services not outlined in the contract an additional contract would need to be drawn up indicating the terms of the work. It is important to protect yourself from difficult clients when agreeing on the contract, and if they are insisting on unreasonable terms, or ones that make you uncomfortable you have the right to simple walk away.


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