Selling the use of image

Take a read-through an artist contract and it’s easy to see by the contractual language used that the artist feels as though the image doesn’t belong to him or her and that it’s the client’s right away. They’re simply trying to eke back some little part of their rights back. But, in reality, the ownership and copyright belong to an artist until they fully sign it away. When it comes to selling the piece, however, there are a few key points for selling the use of image.

Selling the use of image

The first thing to remember is that negotiations in a business deal, even when involving art and use of image, are never about honoring rights. It is about each party coming to the table and feeling as though each received the share of the deal or the outcome desired. Contracts and model release forms often outline, in detail, the rights of the artist to the original piece of work, their rights for use of image and dedicate only a few paragraphs to the client’s. This is a mistake. Essentially, what the artist is implicitly saying is that he or she feels that their automatic rights [i]are[/i] a point of negotiation and are open to such, rather than simply assuming or expecting that this is the case. Secondly, it puts the artist in quite a defensive position, as no legal contracts can cover every single right and situation exhaustively. It would be better and smarter to approach the construction of a stock license agreement, for example, having first ask: what does the client want? Negotiating image use from here is not only simpler but leaves the artist‘s rights intact as a matter of fact.

The beauty of the “Work-For-Hire” contract

Many artists love the “work-for-hire” contract and luckily most clients do too. By law, a work-for-hire contract grants the client full rights, ownership and copyrights to images and work product that is produced when the artist is under the work-for-hire contract, or for the duration of the contract period. The best part for the artist is steady, reliable work for a much higher price (since they’ll be giving up their rights). For the client – a studio, agency or magazine, etc. – the benefit is not having to waste time selling the use of image. Though work-for-hire contracts are pretty straightforward when it comes to use of image, it’s not at all unheard of for artists to request that they be allowed to showcase images as part of their portfolio while stating the rights belong to the client.

Learning the art of negotiating, whether it’s for a full model release or a partial transfer of ownership or granting derivative rights – these are matters of experience. If either party is unsure in such a situation, it would be best to consult an experienced lawyer.