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"Plain English" Legal Advice for Creatives - Interview with Sharon Givoni

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Starting out in business can feel overwhelming, and legal matters can scare even the most seasoned professional. It’s essential to know how to structure our trading terms, what to cover in our contract and how to find a legal professional who “gets” the design industry.

Next week we'll be doing just that with Sharon Givoni at our Seminar Session: Legal Matters for Designers. In this action packed Q&A session with Sharon, we will get to the bottom of some of those curly legal questions and give you access to an industry expert to ask questions specific to your own business.

Sharon Givoni Consulting is a boutique law firm specialising in intellectual property and commercial law matters for businesses of all sizes. Sharon is a highly experienced lawyer and Registered Trade Mark Attorney. She is a creative problem solver who specialises in working with creatives.

In the lead up to the Seminar Session this month, we interviewed Sharon to find out about why she loves working with creatives, where designers go wrong and her motivation to write 'Owning It: A Creative’s Guide to Copyright, Contracts and the Law'.

Find out more about our upcoming Seminar Session with Sharon HERE.

Sharon Givoni, Sharon Givoni Consulting.

TDC: Tell us a bit about your background. Why was it important that you practice law?

SG: To be honest I always thought I would be a fashion or interior designer because I wanted to work with colour and be creative. I was quite surprised that I loved the law so much.

My career in law almost started by accident. I always fancied myself as a glamorous fashion designer or even interior designer as I wanted to work with various colour palettes and textures. But when my final year of school finished and I got the marks, my parents were adamant that I went to Law School. After graduating university, I worked at a variety of big, fancy Collins Street law firms where recording your time in six-minute units was paramount and expected. In 2000, I threw out the time sheets and began my own legal practise which focusses largely on value adding rather than just the time spent on the matter.

TDC: When did you set up your practice and why was it important for you to have your own business?

SG: I strongly believe in work life balance and this is one of the prime reasons I ventured out on my own. I also have the approach that sometimes you need to spend more time on a matter and not necessarily charge for every six-minute unit, but this was unavoidable in the law firms I worked for, so I left.

Image Unsplash

TDC: You have a strong focus on providing legal assistance to people from the creative industries. What is the connection for you here?

SG: I have always had a strong connection with creative people. Because I understand their mindset it makes it easier for me to explain legal concepts to them in plain English. This is what led me to write my book, I guess.

Image Med Badr Chemmaoui, Unsplash

TDC: Your book “Owning It: A Creative’s Guide to Copyright, Contracts and the Law” was obviously a labour of love. How long did it take to write and what was the inspiration?

SG: It was certainly labour that’s for sure (I ended up with 150 000 footnotes). The idea for the book was borne after I delivered a seminar to the Creative Women’s Circle. It was booked out, and one hour including question time just wasn’t enough to address all the questions at the end. We were going to do a second talk, but this got me thinking that no one has really written a comprehensive plain English book on the law for creatives. I was trying to appeal to the general public by writing a book that was very visual which is a stark contrast to your dense black and white law textbook. It took me one and a half years to write, and during that time I lived and breathed it.

Image provided by Sharon Givoni.

TDC: We understand that the illustrations throughout the book were done by you! Tell us how you developed your incredible hidden artistic skills, and how it became so well integrated in the book.

SG: I used to like drawing as a child but never really took it anywhere. When I suggested to the publisher that I might do some illustrations for the book, she politely declined explaining that we would source images from creative people. Nevertheless, the writing process was making me feel more creative and I started learning photoshop on my own and experimenting with black fine liner illustrations. I figured if I could not source an image due to copyright reasons, I would just draw it myself, from typewriters to tattoos, you know, between writing I was drawing. I was largely inspired by my two girls, one of whom also contributed an illustration to the book. The other fun part of the process was approaching clients to use images of their products to illustrate my points…photographs, paintings, architecture and products to name a few. I am also very interested in consumer psychology which is strongly related to intellectual property law as each product will generally be protected by some sort of IP.

Image provided by Sharon Givoni.

TDC: What are the most common errors that creatives make when it comes to protecting themselves legally?

SG: There are some common ones that always come up. One is that if something is on the internet it's free to take and copy. But content on the internet is often protected under copyright laws. The other big myth if that if you change something by ten percent you can use it. However, there is no such thing as the ten percent rule. Copyright infringement is determined by reference to quality and not quantity. There are others but you will have to wait for my live seminar to find out!

Image Oleg Magni, Unsplash

TDC: Tell us in a few words why it’s so important for designers to have a detailed and personalised contract?

SG: The main reason is that you cannot rely on trust. Nothing replaces a good written contract. Sometimes creative people are embarrassed to ask their clients to sign something but to me having a good contract is a sign of professionalism and helps both parties as it defines each party’s rights and obligations.

TDC: What’s next for you Sharon?

SG: The practise has been going well so I plan to start selling my contracts online. I am also getting more requests for privacy and employment law work both of which I also do. I want to continue working with creatives as much as possible. This is where my passion lies.

Image Sharon Givoni

To learn more about Legal Matters for Designers and participate in a robust Q&A session with an industry expert, book your ticket via our website. Often the best questions come from your peers!

If you have any topics that you’d like covered by our Seminar Series, let us know by emailing and we’ll make it happen!

Limited tickets for the Seminar Series: Legal Matters for Designers are available here.

Time & Location

Seminar Session: Legal Matters for Designers

Date: Thursday 19th November 2020

Time: 4.00pm - 6.00pm

Location: Live online seminar

Cost: $60 (includes e-book summary)

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