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Artists for fair pay vs. Lawyers



This post is slightly off the topic of book arts, but I think this
information may be beneficial to list subscribers that produce 2D
artwork for publishers and other commercial enterprises. It also
speaks to recent posts about artists feeling pressure to discount the
price of their work.

There is a trend in the publishing world to have illustrators,
photographers and graphic artists sign contracts that, in effect,
give away their work.

I works like this: When artists are contacted to produce editorial
imagery for publishers (news organizations, magazine conglomerates
such as Conde Nast and others), more often than not they have been
sent a blanket contract covering not only that one assignment, but
also past and all future assignments for that organization. The
contract then gives the publisher the right to license additional use
of the images that were purchased initially for one-time editorial
use in their publications. So, for example, a spot illustration for
which the publisher paid $200 five years ago, is digitally scanned
and becomes part of a stock art database that will continue to
produce revenue for many, many years to come.

These publishers are building up digital stock-art databases without
paying the artists a penny. These publishers then re-sell these
images for a profit. This practice is *legal* because there is a
signed contract. It is arguably unethical, in my opinion and that of
many others, as noted in two web sites below.

http://www.illustratorspartnership.com/3ipa.html
http://www.theispot.com

Not only are the artists being robbed of income, but these publishers
are practicing unfair competition with reputable stock art companies
that compensate their artists both in up-front fees and royalties
based on usage.

Freelance artists have traditionally been paid for art based on a
combination of "reach" (how many people will see it) and "usage"
(one-time or full-rights purchase.) For example, an illustration for
the New York Times Sunday edition (seen by millions) with full rights
purchased (NYT owns the art) would cost considerably more than art
created for the one-time use by a small-town weekly newspaper when
the artist retains the rights to the image. The contracts now offered
to artist negate the entire concept of paying for art based on reach
and usage - in addition to using art from the past that was paid for
based on reach and usage terms. The artists get the same amount of
money whether the image is used once or a thousand times, seen by 30
or 30,000, and can never use the image again for himself/herself or
another client.

My husband is a freelance illustrator and, in just the last year, has
been asked to sign this type of contract with The Dallas Morning
News, The Boston Globe, a sub-contracting agency to Warner Bros. and
by a small magazine publishing group. Each time he has either refused
to sign the contract, or amended the contract in such a manner to
protect himself against unauthorized---and unpaid---use of his images.

To be fair to The Dallas Morning News (my hometown paper)... their
legal department *tried* this tactic---asking artists to sign a
blanket contract that gave the news organization full rights to all
art ever created for them. The design staff was not in favor of the
tactic, but was obligated to contact artists. The DMN is a 20-year
client for my husband; can anyone imagine *giving away* a body of
work created over 20 years? He refused to sign, the DMN dropped the
issue and he continues to work for them.

The lesson for others from our experience is that artist *can* impact
the business world, and refuse to interact on unfair terms.

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