Copyright © 2000-2013
by Barbara Brabec
All Rights Reserved
Barbara Brabec's World


Feedback on the All-Rights/Electronic Rights Problem from Writers and Designers Who Prefer Anonymity

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From a designer, illustrator and author:

"Art Directors have to crank out many jobs and the quickest solution is stock images. This makes less creative work; it's easy to pick a pretty picture, but it takes a creative person to visualize a concept and trust an illustrator or photographer to fulfill that idea. The use of stock images is not going to go away but, as artists, we need to have better control of our work.

"It is the artist’s responsibility to sell all their rights and they need to be careful what they choose to give away. While giving away some of their art is good, especially for charitable causes, this can also diminish the worth of their work and may make it harder to increase the value of it later. There are always going to be artists who give their work away (starving artist syndrome), and businesses that look at just the price, but the best of the best are not selling their work this way. An artist needs to look beyond what the world is doing and do something better."

From another craft designer:

Thoughts on how to increase profits when selling designs on an all-rights basis, and how to reuse basic artwork ideas without violating your all-rights sales.

"In my area of craft design, ALL the publishers buy all rights, including electronic. You can negotiate First Rights occasionally, but then they want to pay you less money. We get little enough as it is!

"Even if you did sell first rights, where can you then sell that design again, since all the editors want exclusive rights? I have had only one occasion when I could do this, because the first rights had been sold to a kit manufacturer. A publisher was willing to buy the design once the kit had been discontinued, considering it noncompetitive. But not many will do that.

"My fellow designers and I have had many discussions regarding this issue. Most feel it is unfair to have to sell all rights all the time. Some designs, however, can't be reused because they are specific to a certain shape or size. Other designs that have more involved artwork, however, could certainly be used over again; for example, as greeting card art.

"I would like to be able to retain the right to use the artwork in a different, noncompetitive industry. But then I would have to break into that market! One major publisher allows the rights to revert to the designer once the book is deleted from their line, but that can be many years."

One Way Around:

"One way around this problem is to do designs in sets, all using the same motif. Often an editor can publish the set instead of a single item. This way, the designer gets more money for using the same artwork several times.

"As Barbara indicated in her article, writers who sell all rights to an article can present the same ideas in another article by using a different slant and putting the words and sentences together differently. In many instances, designers can also reuse artwork simply by modifying it a bit. I can't tell you how many Santas or cats I have done in the last year alone—I am constantly having to check to make sure I haven't sold the same design already. But amazingly, there are umpteen ways to alter these images just enough to be different. The similarities are often considered the designer's 'style' anyway."

Who Wants to be First?

"Barbara suggests that editors would have to buy on a first rights basis if all designers insisted, but who wants to be the first one to insist? I have advocated this method of raising designers' pay for a long time. If we all insisted on higher fees, editors would have to pay them or risk not having any experienced designers to work with. Unfortunately, many designers are rather wimpy or have such a low confidence level that they can't seem to do this."

A Few Words About Lawyers:

"As for lawyers running the industry, what's new about that? I have been told by editors that they don't want to grant any exceptions to their contracts because they wouldn't be able to keep track of copyright violations by their readers. By buying all rights, things are simpler—for them!

"My first experience with lawyers was when my then-partner and I were negotiating a licensing agreement with an artist to translate his work into designs for the craft industry. Being naive young things, we hired ourselves a good lawyer to write the contract. It was presented to the artist's lawyer, who promptly ignored it and rewrote the entire thing from his client's point of view. Then we had to start negotiating from the defensive position. Of course, I now realize that the artist had a very good lawyer who was doing exactly what he should to protect his client's interests. If we designers/writers had our own lawyers or agents to negotiate contracts for us, think how different things would be!

"I appreciate being able to "rant and rave" anonymously about this issue. As is obvious, it really hits home for me."

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