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Rights of Use: Why?

The term „rights of use“ whirls above many creative people’s heads, like a fair weather cloud above a sunny spot: Somehow intangible, somehow unpleasant, somehow annoying and totally pointless. Pointless? Really? Well...

As the name already states, rights of use allow you to use a third person’s work or product for a specific purpose. Let me give you an example: I develop a corporate design concept for a client. The creation from the briefing towards the final concept including logo etc. costs X euros. Now, that leaves one question: Should the price be the same for the bakery next door, as it is for an international corporation acting on a global scale? The bakery next door has a much smaller clientele reach than the international corporation, so there are slimmer chances chances to squeeze profit out of the corporate design, packaging design or other design that I created for them. On the other hand, the international corporation can really milk the design I did for them and increase their profits on a global scale. To make it short: Not every company can get the exact same profit out of a design. However, rights of use let you handle this topic in a fair and transparent way.

Rights of use can be determined with or without a time limit and with or without a regional limitation. I always charge for rights of use without time limit, but with accordance to geographical aspects. The creation of a design costs X euros. The price for the rights of use is added on top and is calculated either for a state (i.e. 5% of the creation price), a country (i.e. 20% of the creation price) or a continent or worldwide – the most expensive rights of use of all.

However, many graphic designers do not even „dare“ to mention the term „rights of use“, let alone charge for them. Speaking from my personal experience, I have to say that I never had a problem with my clients, when charging separately for rights of use (of course I have to communicate that right from the start). After all, they are part of the final price and every client has an understanding for fair, transparent pricing. When a client says „I’ve never paid for rights of use, what is that, nobody charges for that?“, you simply have to bring forward the argument that other graphic designers probably charged too much by simply adding worldwide rights of use, or that they were not paid fairly when charging too little and not seeing any benefit for the success of their design.

Seeing it from the other side, companies should be pro-active here too and ask the graphic designer about how rights of use are dealt with right from the start. This prevents misunderstandings that could come up at a later stage and sets the basis for a trustworthy, transparent co-operation. Because the best design has no value for you unless you can use it!

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