Please help with contract and copyright issue



  • Hi guys, I have a lovely but difficult client who I am in the phase of coming up with a contract for illustrating 3 of her middle grade books for self publishing.We agreed on the price which is slighly below my standard prices and I have sent her an exclusive licence to use my illustrations for her books and the necessary promotion internationally.So I thought the licence was quiet generous.But she wants the full copyrights of the artwork which I am not willing to give away.
    Is there any other compromise- you may know about- that can be done in this kind off stand off situation? She really loves my vision for her books and I would like to do this project too but I never sell my copyrights especially for little money.Any advice would be appreciated.Many thanks.


  • Pro

    @anitabagdi Maybe I misunderstood, but you said you gave her an exclusive license right? Doesn't that already mean that she's the only one that can use the artwork? You would still be the owner of the work but without being allowed to actually use it it's kind of empty isn't it?

    I'd tell her that even the big publishers don't ask for full copyrights of the art. I'd ask her why she thinks that she needs that, if even the big publishers don't. I'd also tell her that she's asking for something that has a value, and you can't just give it to her for free. If she wants it, she has to pay what it's worth. That you're already accepting a lower pay than you usually are, and since you are compromising on the pay you're asking her to compromise as well and meet you in the middle, because you're not willing to bend even further than you already have. To either pay for the extra she wants, or rethink if she really actually needs it or not (she doesn't).


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    I agree with what @NessIllustration said. Wanting you to work for below rates AND get ownership of copyright is unacceptable. The middle ground on a deal like this is what you have already offered her. You need to be able to walk away from a deal like this. She sounds like she has no idea of what she is doing and your life will be better working on things that move you forward.

    I always think it is fun to try to think of analogies when looking at what illustrators have to deal with on the business side. Here's my analogy here: Your client walks into a Porsche dealership and takes a look at all the cars. She REALLY likes the cherry red convertible. When she asks about the prices, she can't believe it. She then asks if they will sell the convertible Porsche at a used Honda price. Because she REALLY wants it! What do you think the outcome of that offer would be? That is exactly what she is asking you for. She wants the Porsche level of illustration and ownership, but she only has used Honda prices. Walk away. : )

    Good luck!
    -Lee



  • @NessIllustration yes, I did give her exclusive license and clearly and nicely explained her that this actually gives her everything she needs. I tell her that I feel I was generous with lowering my fees for her passion project but I only can repeat myself with the copyrights and the license. Thank you for your comment, it really helped me to see that I am not in the wrong with my thoughts about this situation. I really appreciate it!



  • @Lee-White thanks for the advice and the analogy 🙂 a good one!
    How funny, I have just listened to your podcast about Successful failures today!
    well, if she doesn't give in, believe me - I have already learnt tonnes of stuff about licensing and copyrights! Aaaand... it looks like I learn how to walk away 🙂 thnx



  • @anitabagdi it's a good idea to put a time limit on an exclusive license too.



  • I think you got some solid advice from @NessIllustration and @Lee-White .

    I was in this situation before, the writer who was a self publisher was asking for full copyright and when I asked why she could not give me a coherent response.

    I ran so fast from that project, also with it being her passion project I could anticipate her nitpicking over the smallest insignificant details. I think it's great to get feedback and changes from art directors but from a self publisher who could have little to no experience, made me question whether the money was going to be enough to justify the headaches I could see down the line.



  • Solid advice from this thread!

    @NessIllustration is absolutely right "she's asking for something that has a value, and you can't just give it to her for free. If she wants it, she has to pay what it's worth."
    And that worth is not just the book project your client has in mind but every possible use the image(s) could be put to (posters, animation, board games, backpacks, toys, dolls, magazine, other books, video games etc. etc.) for your life + 70 years. Considered in this light, the potential value of a single image is easily in the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    And I love @Lee-White 's analogy, but when I explain this concept I adjust it a bit to be a car rental agency (mostly because we "rent" our images with the idea that ownership always stays with us. And the more often that image is licensed the more income we generate.)

    It's like someone needing to rent a car for some business meetings this week. They only have a $3,000 budget to rent for a week but insist that they simply must own the car. The rental agency might be willing to sell the car, but for $30,000 -- which, coincidentally, is where I start pricing a single image as a WFH.


  • SVS OG

    @davidhohn perfect analogy



  • @davidhohn yes an other great analogy, thanks. Yes, I totally got this but she seems to be the one who doesn't. I contacted her last night explaining pretty much what we talked about above. I'm ok to walk away from this project now without feeling bad.Thnks for all your support guys!



  • @Phil-Cullen thanks for the advice, this situation gave me good lessons already.
    And you may be right, she might be even more picky later on because it's her passion project.



  • This is such an important topic, and I'm glad to see and get the advice posted in it. I think this is the top thing artists/ illustrators struggle with is how to price and value our work, and stand up for those rights (I know I have). Excellent question and responses.


  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @davidhohn love that change to the analogy. That is exactly right!


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