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Q: What happens when a graphic designer is named in a lawsuit?

A: Even if you're just doing a little freelance graphic design work on the side, you could be named in an expensive copyright infringement lawsuit.

Say a client gives you some ideas and wants you to use a photo in your re-design of their marketing materials. Great! But there's a problem. Turns out the client didn't own the copyright for the photo. And now the photographer is suing both you and the client.

But it gets worse. You can even be sued for copyright infringement for including photos in your "comps." That's right: the Graphic Artists Guild warns New browser window icon. designers that including copyrighted material — even as a placeholder — in their rough drafts or markups can lead to lawsuits.

You might be wondering about why you would be sued for infringement if the idea came from your clients. When there's an infringement case, lawyers often sue everyone in the room, including you. It won't matter if the photo was your client's idea, you could end up having to pay expensive legal bills, including:

  • Attorney fees.
  • Penalties for copyright infringement.
  • Settlement costs to resolve the case without going to court.
  • Costs for witnesses and miscellaneous court expenses.

Because these costs can add up quickly, many graphic designers protect their company by signing up for General Liability Insurance and other small business coverage to shield them from the cost of covered lawsuits.

Still have questions? Fill out the Q&A form. We'll get back to you with an in-depth answer.

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