Explaining copyright to non-artists



  • Hi all! I'm sure this topic has been discussed at length in the past so you'll have to forgive me - I'm new here. 😁

    So I seem to keep running into issues relating to copyright. The best way to describe them is probably through 2 situations in the past month that have just blown my mind

    1. I do a lot of pet illustrations, and in many cases use it on/for merch to raise funds for a related cause, non-profit or the pet themselves. I ofcourse get the pet owner's blessing first, and give them the illustration for free.

    So anyway, on this particular occasion, I was asked to donate a colouring page for Mr. Cat's goody bag which were to be handed out to the kids at his meet'n'greet event, which I happily did as it would help raise awareness of special needs pets.

    As it was so well received I was then asked to illustrate an entire colouring book. The owner however, expected to receive all the source files (for 16+ illustrations) as well as an unlimited licence to make copies of the colouring book.. FOR FREE! Wait, my mistake.. not for free, in exchange for using her cat as a model and for a few posts/stories on her IG account. I mean, sure, she has over 100,000 followers but seriously?! My illustrations are very stylised so the cat I drew could damn well be ANY cat. I can't seem to get through to her and have basically given up trying but am wondering how I could better explain how this is completely unfair if a similar situation were to arise in future. Does anyone know of a good explainer video or resource to explain to non-artists from the artist's perspective?

    1. I was recently asked to illustrate my first children's book ever but when receiving the contract that requested i hand over my copyrights, i refused, and offered an exclusive licence instead. After much back and forth I finally got them to agree, however as a part of this process, they requested quotes from 2 other illustrators (in an attempt to ascertain what was industry best practice) - these were both well established illustrators, i might add - and what I thought would prove the points i had been arguing, did the complete opposite, as both illustrators offered to hand over their copyrights.

    The only explanation I could think of was that, they had so much work coming in, it was just easier to give copyrights rather than to try and manage a bunch of licensing agreements (renewals etc.)
    Does anyone here offer transfer of their copyrights or know of anyone that does? If so, why?!!


  • Pro

    @Kumica-Truong-0 That is astonishing. :o She really doesn't understand why that's no okay? You've been above and beyond. Honestly I'm not sure why you even say that "of course" you get the owner's blessing and give them the illustration for free. All work you draw with your own hands is yours, and you have no obligation (not even moral) to even ask someone's blessing to draw their likeness, much less their cat's likeness. I could start making paintings of Jennifer Lopez and sell them - I would have no obligation to ask her permission or give her the work for free.

    This graphic circulates a lot for explaining copyright and is very clear: https://www.doggiedrawings.net/copyright-101

    Anyway, as for your question.. At the beginning of my career I did sometimes hand over my copyrights. I no longer do, but at the time I was searching really hard for contracts and everyone wanted to pay only pennies, so if I found a contract that was really well paid but the stipulation was that they wanted copyrights (even if they didn't really need them for the book) I sometimes agreed after some negotiating. It mostly depended on if I thought I could use the work in any other context. Sometimes it's so specific that I didn't think I'd be able to ever license this again or even sell prints or products, so that sometimes made me give in. Now that I'm more financially secure and get good, fair, professional contracts coming in regularly, I never accept to sign over my copyrights for free anymore simply as a matter of principle.


  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @Kumica-Truong-0 said in Explaining copyright to non-artists:

    Hi all! I'm sure this topic has been discussed at length in the past so you'll have to forgive me - I'm new here. 😁

    No worries. This is a topic that should come up often.

    So I seem to keep running into issues relating to copyright. The best way to describe them is probably through 2 situations in the past month that have just blown my mind

    1. I do a lot of pet illustrations, and in many cases use it on/for merch to raise funds for a related cause, non-profit or the pet themselves. I ofcourse get the pet owner's blessing first, and give them the illustration for free.

    Couple things. When you get the owner's blessing is it in writing? Contract or e-mail or even a good ol' letter? Avoid verbal "contracts" as they are effectively unenforceable. And when you say "give" do you mean they get a printed copy, or a digital file -- or do you mean you give them physical original art?

    So anyway, on this particular occasion, I was asked to donate a colouring page for Mr. Cat's goody bag which were to be handed out to the kids at his meet'n'greet event, which I happily did as it would help raise awareness of special needs pets.

    As it was so well received I was then asked to illustrate an entire colouring book. The owner however, expected to receive all the source files (for 16+ illustrations) as well as an unlimited licence to make copies of the colouring book.. FOR FREE! Wait, my mistake.. not for free, in exchange for using her cat as a model and for a few posts/stories on her IG account. I mean, sure, she has over 100,000 followers but seriously?! My illustrations are very stylised so the cat I drew could damn well be ANY cat. I can't seem to get through to her and have basically given up trying

    Can I assume the cat owner is the client? What are you trying to get from the client that she isn't giving you? Are you looking for payment (totally reasonable BTW) or do you just want to maintain your copyright?

    but am wondering how I could better explain how this is completely unfair if a similar situation were to arise in future.

    I can understand how frustrating this can be -- but also don't overcomplicate it. Just say "I don't work for free". Everyone understands this concept. And if the client tries to use the: "But think of the exposure!" , simply explain that your credit card company doesn't take "exposure" payments.

    That's not to say that exposure doesn't have some potential value. If you feel that exposure value is worthwhile you could offer something like an "exposure discount" -- but I would still require being paid some amount for the time, energy, and resources dedicated to the project.

    Something to keep in mind. The fact that this client has 100,000+ followers means that this project has significant potential value to the client. Therefore any licensing fee you quote should be adjusted upward accordingly. When pricing a project you don't base it solely on the value of the project to YOU (too many illustrators price projects on their "hourly rate"). Rather pro illustrators calculate the licensing fee based on the value of the project to the CLIENT.

    Does anyone know of a good explainer video or resource to explain to non-artists from the artist's perspective?

    Now that you mention it -- no. Not that it doesn't exist somewhere on YouTube's platform, but I spend a lot of time researching and thinking about copyright and licensing and I've never come across what you are talking about. It would be a valuable resource though!

    1. I was recently asked to illustrate my first children's book ever but when receiving the contract that requested i hand over my copyrights, i refused, and offered an exclusive licence instead.

    What rights did that exclusive license cover?

    After much back and forth I finally got them to agree, however as a part of this process, they requested quotes from 2 other illustrators (in an attempt to ascertain what was industry best practice) - these were both well established illustrators, i might add - and what I thought would prove the points i had been arguing, did the complete opposite, as both illustrators offered to hand over their copyrights.

    As a freelance illustrator there is only one reason I can use to justify transferring my copyright to a client, and that is -- the budget for the project is so high that I feel it compensates me for EVERY POTENTIAL USE the image could be put to for the duration of copyright protection (my life +70 years).

    My opening quote for a Work For Hire (WFH) project is $30,000 per illustration. I feel that is a perfectly reasonable price for a client to exclusively own, and profit from, a single image for what will be (approximately) 110 years.

    I should note that I have yet to have a client take me up on this, BUT it quickly shifts the conversation away from WFH to a discussion of the rights the client ACTUALLY NEEDS RIGHT NOW AND HAS THE BUDGET FOR.

    The added bonus is, if the project is wildly successful and the client needs more rights in the future, they can ALWAYS come back to license them.

    The only explanation I could think of was that, they had so much work coming in, it was just easier to give copyrights rather than to try and manage a bunch of licensing agreements (renewals etc.)

    That is way too generous of you. I have a few guesses why they would offer a WFH and none of them are flattering. The largest part of my business model is based on "passive income" (that is, ongoing revenue generated from projects that I have already completed)

    Does anyone here offer transfer of their copyrights or know of anyone that does? If so, why‽!

    Like @NessIllustration when I started out (just out of school and was ignorant of the concept of licensing copyright) I signed WFH contracts. I will always be grateful for Graphic Artists Guild for offering a class in copyright and contracts which opened my eyes right up. So while I am open to a WFH transfer of right (for the $30,000/per image previously mentioned) every project I have done in that last 15 years has been for specific and limited grant of rights.

    And as a final thought if that $30,000/image seems outrageously expensive to you -- I guarantee you that there are illustrators who think that is way too cheap! I have images that are ticking right up there in terms of income generated via relicensing to multiple clients over the years.



  • @Kumica-Truong-0 Hi, I think a lot of people who aren't in this industry tend to view art as just a hobby that we love doing (which it certainly can be) and as something easy and quick for us to do (which it usually isn't). So they often expect people to work for free or for exposure or for the love of it. I think the best way to explain it to them is that illustration is a skill and a job like any other. Even if you love to bake cakes, you can't open a bakery and give away cakes for free, and no one would expect you to! People don't expect free haircuts for the "exposure" that they're going to give the hairdresser. I think just explaining it like that shows people how ridiculous and disrespectful it is to ask for free work, because I genuinely think a lot of people just don't get it.

    Doing a one off free illustration for a good cause is great but you can't let people take advantage of you. If she wants a full colouring book that she's planning to sell and has enough of a following that she can make good money on it, she can definitely afford to pay you! And if she won't, then it's not worth it. I did do my first children's book for very little money and gave away the copyright because I knew I couldn't use those images for anything else, and I was desperate for any published gig at that point but I wouldn't do it again.

    Once you get past the random odd jobs stage and start getting "real" clients/working with actual art directors (which I'm finally just starting to do), they tend to understand the actual value of illustration and copyright and pay accordingly. It just takes some time and a few bad jobs to get there lol



  • @NessIllustration Oh, she doesn't just not understand why it's not okay.. she has the audacity to get upset with me and even went so far as to block me on Instagram when I refused to work 80+ hours in exchange for a couple of posts ("exposure").

    Mind you, this is after having given her several illustrations for free (digital copy with personal use licence - which she breached btw, by using them to print stickers to sell for a profit!), 10x greeting cards featuring "her" cat for free, a couple of enamel pins of "her" cat for free, OH, and a donation of $250 from the proceeds I made from selling greeting cards she helped get me exposure for, as a token of my appreciation I suppose. It was more than I paid myself!

    SOoo.. I guess in a way, it's my own fault.. I suppose I lay the groundwork for unrealistic and unfair expectations by overextending myself and being TOO nice.

    And this probably also answers your question RE asking for someone's blessing to draw their pets likeness. I think it is more an attempt to avoid stepping on someone's toes, than a legal or moral obligation. I just remember at some point thinking, "how would I feel if someone drew my face and profited from it or even just plastered it all over social media without my knowledge?" So now, I'll first show the person in question and wait for a response (aka "their blessing") before sharing it to a wider audience.

    As I still sell merch that uses illustrations of a cat that was originally based on hers, I just ensure I am not using the cat's name or making any associations that could lead to her arguing that I'm "using her cat and/or cat's name for my own benefit and so therefore I owe her 16+ illustrations and all copyright in exchange"(?!!) - which is exactly what she was doing.
    Question - I guess this constitutes as a brand.. her cat's brand. So would that then be considered a co-creation (in the instance I did use the cat's name and made associations)?

    It's been several months since, and just last week she emailed me. I thought she had finally realised what she was asking of me and was ready to apologise.. but nope, turns out she was just trying to find a loophole in the personal use licence in order to get what she wants ie everything for free. Seriously, what the hell!

    Thanks for the resource explaining copyright. This would have been perfect for when I was trying to explain copyright vs licence to the author of the children's book (in my 2nd scenario) so it should come in handy in future. 🙂

    I still have no idea how to get through to the cat lady though. The best I could think of was something along the lines of:
    A piece of artwork is akin to a book you've borrowed from the library, but one you get to borrow forever. You wouldn't xerox the book and sell copies of it for a profit, so you shouldn't use the artwork to print onto merch to sell for profit. In contrast, you may copy a single page out of the book for your kid to colour.. similarly, it is (generally) okay to use the artwork for personal use.

    Which addresses one part of the issue, but we need something that explains the value of our work.. and shows what goes into 1 piece.. the number of hours, the experience, etc. Surely there's some infograph out there.. otherwise I've just found a new project haha.

    In regards to handing over copyrights - is it still commonplace to see contracts that ask for transfer of rights? Was it more common in the past? Can you think of any reason a well established illustrator getting plenty of work would transfer copyrights as their standard practice? It completely threw me that the 2 other illustrators the author got quotes from, both said they'd give up copyrights.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond and sharing your insights - much appreciated 🙂


  • Pro

    @Kumica-Truong-0 I don't think there's any such thing as a "cat's brand". I mean there was Grumpy Cat, but I think he was trademarked. Without a trademark, I doubt anyone can lay claim to a cat's likeness. I can understand asking for someone's blessing to use their likeness - as a courtesy, not as a legal obligation. Asking for their blessing to use their CAT'S likeness is in my opinion completely overkill and trespassing into cray cray land. Plus it could give them the impression that they have more of a say in this than they actually do. While I can see why it might feel a bit violating to see my face used in a product for sale, to see my cat's face on a product definitely is not the same, it wouldn't feel violating and the cat certainly wouldn't care. I wouldn't ask for permission at all personally. It opens the door for misunderstandings and entitled demands - from people who have no knowledge of how copyright law actually works. This lady is a lost case, there's no amount of explaining that'll work on her. She's just crazy! If she's violating your personal use license though, I'd send her a strongly worded cease and desist letter with lots of lawyer jargon in it, just to scare her straight.

    As for the copyrights thing on the book, I think the most likely scenario is the other 2 artists were desperate for the job and just about ready to sign over their kidney for it. I can understand the urge, I've started my career not too long ago and it's tough out there at first. But it is short-sighted to start giving up your copyrights away, instead of slowly building up a catalog of work that can bring you residual income for years to come.



  • @davidhohn thanks for taking the time to respond 🙂 To answer your questions (and I apologise if you read my previous reply in which case this may get a little repetitive)

    When you get the owner's blessing is it in writing?
    When I say "get the owner's blessing", it more often than not occurs after I've already done the illustration. It's nothing formal, and more out of politeness and stems from the thought of "how would I feel if someone drew my face and tagged me on social media without (me) having any prior knowledge of it?"
    I'm not sure if there is any legal obligation to get written consent, however as a matter of 'not stepping on anyones toes', I will first show/send the illustration to the person in question and wait for a (positive) response before sharing it to a wider audience.
    And this, is what I refer to as "getting their blessing".. and is usually in a chat/DM so technically in writing.

    Question - where does the model fit in to the copyright equation? Do they get acknowledged? In the case of an animal, what happens? What happens if you identify them and/or namedrop i.e. essentially using their brand for your benefit - does this change your legal obligations?

    And when you say "give" do you mean they get a printed copy, or a digital file -- or do you mean you give them physical original art?
    I give them a digital copy along with a personal use licence. In the case of the cat lady however, I've given a lot more than I've needed to (including several illustrations in digital format, merch, $250 donation as a token of my appreciation for the exposure she provided) - in fact, I don't believe I am legally obliged to give anything at all (?) so anything I do give should be a bonus.. right?

    Can I assume the cat owner is the client? What are you trying to get from the client that she isn't giving you? Are you looking for payment (totally reasonable BTW) or do you just want to maintain your copyright?
    Normally, I would be looking for both payment and to keep my copyrights. But in this instance, I am simply looking for her to understand what it is she is actually asking for, and why it is unreasonable and completely unfair.
    In her mind, it isn't even about the exposure - I just don't think she understands the value of an illustration and the work/time that goes into a single piece, let alone 16 pieces. In her mind, the fact that I "used" her cat to base my illustrations on. In her words, "you used my cat as a subject and I'll give you an audience of 110k followers to promote your colouring book, so in exchange you should give me the source files and copyrights"

    What rights did that exclusive license cover?
    Exclusive rights, worldwide for as long as the first edition was in print

    That is way too generous of you. I have a few guesses why they would offer a WFH and none of them are flattering.
    Sorry, maybe I wasn't clear in my explanation. Ultimately, my issue wasn't with the client as I was able to convince them in the end.
    My issue was with the 2 other illustrators the client asked for quotes from, to compare my prices as well as the contract I was offering. I thought both illustrators would confirm my point that a licensing agreement was best for both parties thereby convincing the client it was best practice.. but turns out, both illustrators offer transfer of copyright. I'm just trying to understand why!!



  • @Melanie-Ortins Hi Melanie! Yeh, I totally agree. I think there are misconceptions and flawed societal views about the creative industry - I mean, even I, was discouraged from pursuing arts as a career growing up because it wasn't (and still isn't) seen as a "real job". I think it's our job as creatives to educate people in order to start changing these views.

    The only illustrations I do for free are the ones I choose to do, because it's something I want to draw. I do donate (a piece of artwork) so long as it is for a cause that resonates with me, but I don't think I would ever do anything for free anymore, even for "exposure".



  • @NessIllustration haha yep, I completely agree. The only time I would consider asking for permission would be if I intended to ride on tailcoats, or was using the cat's name on the packaging for instance, or tagging them in promo posts (in effect, catching the eyes of their followers), I'd consider that to be part of their brand.. I know there are followers that would buy something simply because the cat's name is attached to it. Wouldn't that be akin to buying a label, hence a brand?
    As far as this lady is concerned though, you're right, she's a lost cause. It did highlight for me however, how uneducated the general population is and how we, as creatives, need to be actively changing the landscape. Even fellow creatives need to be educated, probably more so - on things like not undercharging, not giving up your copyright - all these things play into the wider societal misconceptions. Which result in things like crazy cat ladies. lol


  • SVS Instructor Pro

    General caveat: I am not a lawyer so all opinions are my own and based on personal experience and/or research.

    @Kumica-Truong-0 said in Explaining copyright to non-artists:

    @davidhohn thanks for taking the time to respond 🙂 To answer your questions (and I apologise if you read my previous reply in which case this may get a little repetitive)

    When you get the owner's blessing is it in writing?
    When I say "get the owner's blessing", it more often than not occurs after I've already done the illustration. It's nothing formal, and more out of politeness and stems from the thought of "how would I feel if someone drew my face and tagged me on social media without (me) having any prior knowledge of it?"

    That's a good instinct. In legal terms what you are referring to "The Right of Publicity"
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/publicity

    I'm not sure if there is any legal obligation to get written consent, however as a matter of 'not stepping on anyones toes', I will first show/send the illustration to the person in question and wait for a (positive) response before sharing it to a wider audience.

    If you are still thinking of your animal illustrations, there is a question of whether Right of Publicity extends to animals
    https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/grumpy-cat-gets-movie-deal-560658

    But getting written consent definitely limits your legal exposure should the owner change their mind at some point in the future.

    And this, is what I refer to as "getting their blessing".. and is usually in a chat/DM so technically in writing.

    Yes e-mails, chats and DM's would be considered "in writing" and can be legally binding.

    Question - where does the model fit in to the copyright equation? Do they get acknowledged? In the case of an animal, what happens? What happens if you identify them and/or namedrop i.e. essentially using their brand for your benefit - does this change your legal obligations?

    If the animal has a recognized brand then, yes, you would arguably be building on the creativity of someone else and would increase your legal exposure. That concept is discussed in the article posted above.

    And when you say "give" do you mean they get a printed copy, or a digital file -- or do you mean you give them physical original art?
    I give them a digital copy along with a personal use licence. In the case of the cat lady however, I've given a lot more than I've needed to (including several illustrations in digital format, merch, $250 donation as a token of my appreciation for the exposure she provided) - in fact, I don't believe I am legally obliged to give anything at all (?) so anything I do give should be a bonus.. right?

    Based on the information you've written in this thread, you are not obligated to give the pet owner anything.

    Can I assume the cat owner is the client? What are you trying to get from the client that she isn't giving you? Are you looking for payment (totally reasonable BTW) or do you just want to maintain your copyright?
    Normally, I would be looking for both payment and to keep my copyrights. But in this instance, I am simply looking for her to understand what it is she is actually asking for, and why it is unreasonable and completely unfair.
    In her mind, it isn't even about the exposure - I just don't think she understands the value of an illustration and the work/time that goes into a single piece, let alone 16 pieces. In her mind, the fact that I "used" her cat to base my illustrations on. In her words, "you used my cat as a subject and I'll give you an audience of 110k followers to promote your colouring book, so in exchange you should give me the source files and copyrights"

    I am a little confused here. Did you create a coloring book on your own or did the pet owner commission you to create it? Your initial message says "I was then asked to illustrate an entire colouring book." This tells me that you were asked/hired to make the coloring book. A coloring book that you would NOT have created on your own. Do I have this right?

    What rights did that exclusive license cover?
    Exclusive rights, worldwide for as long as the first edition was in print

    While a better than Work For Hire (handing over your copyrights) "Exclusive rights, worldwide for as long as the first edition was in print" is still a significant grant of rights.
    Are you limiting those rights in any way? For example are you licensing book format rights only or are you also including merchandise? Are you allowing your images to be included in anthologies, excerpted for magazine or online use etc?

    I would personally recommend licensing ONLY the rights the client intends to put the work to right now. So if they plan to make a 32 page hardcover picture book and they expect to print (and sell) 5000 copies. License them the rights to print 5000 copies of your illustrations formatted in a hardcover 32 page picture book. And nothing more.

    If the book is successful and they sell out of the 5000 copies they can then come back to you and negotiate a license for 10000 more copies. Or they can negotiate a license for a paperback version ore they can negotiate a license to reproduce the book online or . . . you get the idea.

    That is way too generous of you. I have a few guesses why they would offer a WFH and none of them are flattering.
    Sorry, maybe I wasn't clear in my explanation. Ultimately, my issue wasn't with the client as I was able to convince them in the end.
    My issue was with the 2 other illustrators the client asked for quotes from, to compare my prices as well as the contract I was offering. I thought both illustrators would confirm my point that a licensing agreement was best for both parties thereby convincing the client it was best practice.. but turns out, both illustrators offer transfer of copyright. I'm just trying to understand why!!

    Oh, I understood you correctly. IF two other illustrators (that you describe as "well established") readily agreed to WFH it indicates that they are either woefully ignorant of basic business practices or . . . (well, this is where it gets into the unflattering part)

    But is it possible your client was lying to you? Unfortunately, it would not surprise me.
    If you can confirm with the illustrators in question that they did offer WFH terms you may also be able to get them to explain their reasoning.
    And then please send them over to these boards so they can learn how to license their work properly!



  • @davidhohn So I guess this is where it becomes a little messy, and I fell into the trap of being so excited about the project, I jumped ahead before any contracts were drawn up or any expectations were even discussed. Months prior, she had asked for a quote for the colouring book - which I provided a heavily discounted rate - to which she responded she couldn't afford.
    This time around, it was me that brought it up.. in response to many requests from followers (asking for a whole book, after seeing the single colouring page I had donated). So I suppose I just assumed there was no need for a contract as there was nothing being exchanged as far as I was concerned. It was just my own little project, although it spawned from an initial request from her - the donation of a colouring page.
    So, to answer your question - yes and no. haha

    Regarding the licence agreement for the children's book, although I am aware that giving exclusive rights with no bounds, is essentially giving up all my power, I wasn't too concerned in this instance as the other party is a good friend of 25 years so our mutual respect and trust is ultimately what sealed the deal. The only reason why I let the licence cast such a wide net was to ease her concerns that someone else couldn't come along and offer me a ridiculous sum of money for usage rights.
    The only limitations specified in the contract are the way in which she can use the artwork i.e. in the book (first edition), or for promo purposes leading up to the launch. However, I wouldn't be so lax in any other instance.

    So use for marketing materials, say, would you normally draw up a separate contract rather than including it in the same one?
    How do illustrators (assuming they don't have an agent) normally manage which licenses have expired, etc. I'm imagining it to be quite time consuming and unsustainable after a handful..?

    As for the two other illustrators happily giving up their copyright - in this case, as my client is actually a friend, there's no possibility of bending truths or manipulation - she actually sent me their contracts and/or screenshots of emails/chats. It really took me by surprise, and was quite disappointing. I often feel like we artists, are at least 50% to blame for the misconceptions society continue to have of the creative industry, and the crappy treatment of being undervalued and underpaid - because we keep doing stuff like giving away our copyrights or not charging full rates (guilty! 🙋🏻 )


  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @Kumica-Truong-0 said in Explaining copyright to non-artists:

    Cat Coloring Book:

    @davidhohn So I guess this is where it becomes a little messy, and I fell into the trap of being so excited about the project, I jumped ahead before any contracts were drawn up or any expectations were even discussed. Months prior, she had asked for a quote for the colouring book - which I provided a heavily discounted rate - to which she responded she couldn't afford.
    This time around, it was me that brought it up.. in response to many requests from followers (asking for a whole book, after seeing the single colouring page I had donated). So I suppose I just assumed there was no need for a contract as there was nothing being exchanged as far as I was concerned. It was just my own little project, although it spawned from an initial request from her - the donation of a colouring page.
    So, to answer your question - yes and no. haha

    Based on what you've written here, you are right, there's no need for a contract. You wanted to make something and you did. You never intended the work to be used for anything other than your own personal use and/or portfolio.

    As soon that the cat owner wanted to use the images, then you'd want a contract to clarify what rights were being licensed and for how long. (Whether money was exchanged or not)

    Children's Book Project:

    Regarding the licence agreement for the children's book, although I am aware that giving exclusive rights with no bounds, is essentially giving up all my power, I wasn't too concerned in this instance as the other party is a good friend of 25 years so our mutual respect and trust is ultimately what sealed the deal. The only reason why I let the licence cast such a wide net was to ease her concerns that someone else couldn't come along and offer me a ridiculous sum of money for usage rights.
    The only limitations specified in the contract are the way in which she can use the artwork i.e. in the book (first edition), or for promo purposes leading up to the launch. However, I wouldn't be so lax in any other instance.

    Based on what you wrote here the license is not the grant of rights I was thinking of. You've further defined "Exclusive rights, worldwide for as long as the first edition was in print" to mean reproduction of the artwork to the first edition of the book only and for promotion of that first edition. That seems reasonable to me and it highlights that the wording of a contract really matters.

    So use for marketing materials, say, would you normally draw up a separate contract rather than including it in the same one?

    Nope. The rights to use the artwork in promotion would simply be listed in the Grant of Rights.

    How do illustrators (assuming they don't have an agent) normally manage which licenses have expired, etc. I'm imagining it to be quite time consuming and unsustainable after a handful..?

    Nope. It's very easy, and fun! You are making money from work you did years ago. Passive revenue is the BEST revenue!

    Just imagine being a car rental company. Do they get overwhelmed when they have more than 10 cars available to rent? Or even 20? Sure, when you have 1000 or more you might want to hire some help, but by that time the profits would justify the expense.

    As for the two other illustrators happily giving up their copyright - in this case, as my client is actually a friend, there's no possibility of bending truths or manipulation - she actually sent me their contracts and/or screenshots of emails/chats. It really took me by surprise, and was quite disappointing. I often feel like we artists, are at least 50% to blame for the misconceptions society continue to have of the creative industry, and the crappy treatment of being undervalued and underpaid - because we keep doing stuff like giving away our copyrights or not charging full rates (guilty! 🙋🏻 )

    The fact that you are working to learn how to do this says great things about your character and business acumen. And the converse is arguably true of the other illustrators in question.


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