GCIP 292: Legal Issues for Graphic Designers

This course will cover most legal issues that confront graphic designers and Web developers in the day to day operation of business. Specific legal issues will include business formation, contracts, copyright, licensing, deep linking, click wrap agreements, and the risks and benefits of self employment versus employment by a business.

The Origins of Law

Without law, society is barely conceivable. Even animal communities require some form of order to maintain developmental needs, which may include behavior corresponding to an obedience to authority. This need for order, in both animal and human societies, helps to insure a fair and equitable distribution of resources to all members of the community. As humans formed larger social groups and our needs became more complex, law became an intuitive development required for social order. Law was the natural progression for the exercise of rights and for the development of individuals and the community itself, rather than created out of fear of one another. The restraint that law imposes on our freedom is the price we pay for living in a community. As a result, law is a positive response to the needs and concerns of others by all members of a human community. The great Roman lawyer, Cicero, wrote "we are slaves to the law, so that we may be free." Law therefore, provides the security and self-determination that has enabled social and political advancement.

The phrase "law and order" might be more accurately stated as "law for order." If there were no law, there would be no order. And order is the primary goal of all animal and human communities, for order is essential to protect the well-being of its members. In our modern society, law is needed to exercise human rights in our larger and more complex societies and represents the positive purpose of human development. If human beings are to live by a social contract, we must be able to concede our natural freedom to create a more orderly society. However, order is only a part of why law exists.

Although law helps to protect order, it also speaks to justice and equality. Our modern legal system seeks to maintain a balance between order and justice. And this idea of balancing law and justice can be found in the work of the Greek philosophers. However, justice is a function of the reasonable and equitable laws a society creates, and therefore are ideals. This means that law is never completely certain and open to interpretation.

Ultimately, law protects the well being of the community. Rather than individuals being forced to fend for themselves, law serves and protects the individual within the community.  Some choose to see the purpose of law as a way to protect us from one another - to isolate individuals from others. However, law is the necessary order needed for the expression of human rights in our society. It represents the positive purpose of human development needed to protect the rights of all members of the community as well as for the development of the community as a whole.

Gregory Kelley, MA
Palomar College, Adjunct Faculty
Graphic Communications Department

Tad Crawford's readable guide is filled with practical legal advice for visual artists, as well as insightful discussions of ethical issues. Immediately useful are the sample agreements and forms, explained in the context of common business practices.