As artists and cartoonists working in a competitive, changing, and in some cases shrinking marketplace, we sometimes feel compelled to create work we don’t care to, and provide our work for less than the most advantageous terms.
That being said, if you remember nothing else from reading what follows, remember this – the art and associated rights are yours. All yours – at least prior to accepting any compensation for it. You shouldn’t feel pressured to provide any individual, corporation, or any other business entity who seeks art with your work until the terms are satisfactory to you.
In a previous post, I’d discussed rights in the form of their component parts. We’ll touch on that again because its so critically important. Lets say you’ve created an amazing work of art. For the sake of illustrating the point, I’ll make up a title for this fictional work of art – something crazy like, “Mona Lisa”. Zany, right? Anyway, you’ve sat in your studio in Florence and whipped up this “Mona Lisa”, and walking by your window is the creative director for an influential Renaissance greeting card company, Tomas Torquemada of the Grand Inquisitor Greetings card company (an out-of-towner) – no doubt popular in its time, should it actually have existed.
Your “Mona Lisa” catches Mr. Torquemada’s discriminating eye, and he thinks it would make a great addition to their ‘Get We’ll Soon For The Next Round Of Questioning’ line of cards. He approaches you and, in his wonderfully convincing way, offers to feature your artwork in his exceedingly popular line. “Mike,” he says, (let’s make your fictional name Mike La Angelo) “what do you say I give you four-hundreds bucks for that little picture of yours.” Wow, four hundred bucks from this very big, historically significant creative director. He has a reputation for convincing people to come around to his way of thinking – I guess it’s the money, right?
Despite the difficulty in not immediately accepting Mr. Torquemada’s seemingly generous offer, that’s exactly what you should do. What’s the worst he can do to you, stretch you out on the rack or pour boiling oil over your personal bits? As an example, here’s why you should hold out a little longer before converting to his way of thinking; your art is like a pie cut into a number of sections, each section having considerable value. Mr. Torquemada would like to take the whole pie, with all its present and future value (this is like a Twinkie pie – it just never goes bad) for his initial offer, knowing that if you accept, there’s no turning back – he owns it and could do whatever he pleases with it, including making a great deal of money in ways you’d never considered.
Before that happens, kindly inform Mr. Torquemada that he can get what he needs from your artwork – the greeting card rights – one single section of the pie, and can merrily distribute his painfully effective cards while you retain the rest of the pie. You can then approach the Mayan calendar company and offer them the calendar rights to your work, now till doomsday if they like. And still, there remains additional sections of the pie you can offer and put to work for you.
Remember, the work is entirely, irrevocably yours until you sign it away, so don’t sign it away. Offer it out in the required sections and get the most out of your work, ‘kay Mike?”