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To refuse to hand over a commissioned artwork because the customer is demanding copyright?

76 replies

Olympiathequeen · 28/06/2017 17:04

I do commissioned images using photoshop, digital painting and composite photos. This customer (in the USA) is saying that because he commissioned the work he owns the copyright. I've read up on the subject and he doesn't meet these conditions. I've completed what I feel is a beautiful painting which has taken me days to complete for £20 (yes I know!) and I want the option to print limited copies locally. He is saying I can't do this without his permission and he will take any profit and I will get nothing as he has paid me for all rights.

He hasn't got the image yet and he hasn't paid me. He used to work as a lawyer and is trying to bullshit me.

AIBU in telling him politely the copyright is mine as the artist and he can suck it up?

OP posts:

ZaraW · 28/06/2017 17:08

I've had art commissioned and yes I would expect that it wouldn't be reproduced. It doesn't matter how much or little you charge it's the price you agreed on. Of course I'm no expert.


Cloudyapples · 28/06/2017 17:09

TBH if he was only going to pay you £20 I'd tell him to stick it and make the prints - you'll probably make more money from that anyway and can always sell the original on a site like etsy or through a local gallery for more ham £20


Cloudyapples · 28/06/2017 17:09

than! must spellcheck*


allegretto · 28/06/2017 17:10

Why the low price?


FruBayerischOla · 28/06/2017 17:10

I don't know what the legalities are, but if you're unhappy with his demands then don't send him the image and tell him to get stuffed.

Why do you only charge £20 for 'days+' of work?


WinifredAtwellsOtherPiano · 28/06/2017 17:11

placemarking - may be able to give advice later.


LondonHuffyPuffy · 28/06/2017 17:13

Have you got any sort of contract in place, even just set out in emails?

Where are you based?


Sunshinegirls · 28/06/2017 17:13

£20?! Why are you charging so little? How are artists supposed to make a living from their work if people can get commissioned work for £20?! Put your prices up please. About the copyright, I'm not 100% but I'm pretty sure it belongs to you and you could get it written into your T&C's


CotswoldStrife · 28/06/2017 17:13

If it was a piece commissioned by a client then no, I wouldn't expect it to be reproduced (especially for profit) either! If they wanted to purchase one of your stock prints then they'd have done that.

I am not sure of the legal ins and outs of the situation, but I do think YABU.


Gingerandgivingzerofucks · 28/06/2017 17:15

You own the intellectual rights to work you have created. Tell the bloke who commissioned it to fuck off, don't send it to him, no doubt he'd claim it was ruined in transport etc and kick up some other fuss. Not worth it for £20.


user1487175389 · 28/06/2017 17:17

You seem to be massively underselyourself yourself. If I were you I'd head to the library and see if you can get yourself a book called Craft A Creative Business - which has lots of info on copyright etc, there's also a website which I think is called Craft A bit or something like that.

If I were you I would take some time to come up with some concrete terms and conditions that all future customers have to abide by in order to commission you and be very clear copyright is never up for discussion.

And don't sell to this bloke, I bet you could get more than £20 for it.


user1487175389 · 28/06/2017 17:18

Craft a biz*

Underselling yourself*


LondonHuffyPuffy · 28/06/2017 17:18

I don't think the OP is being unreasonable at all. In the absence of any written agreement to the contrary, as the original creator of the work she owns all the intellectual property rights in the work, including copyright. She can enjoy and use her IP rights as she wishes.

If you commission art, you should always have a written agreement in place in which the artist transfers copyright to you (if they agree).


Olympiathequeen · 28/06/2017 17:19

Low price because I'm an idiot!

I'm in the uk and he is in America. He is quoting the legislation 'work for hire' which I am familiar with and which doesn't apply to me but he is trying to bullshit me into thinking it does. He says we had discussed copyright (which we hadn't) and have an 'understanding' which we haven't.

It just suddenly occurred to me he could sell a limited print of 20 for £100 or so and make £1000 profit for my £20. Anyway no artist gives away the copyright of anything unless they're mad.

OP posts:

krustykittens · 28/06/2017 17:20

I have commissioned art before and I have paid extra to buy the artists proofs and for me to own copyright. As the creator of the art work, the copyright rests with you unless he creates a contract to transfer copyright to him, he hasn't done that. Please put your prices up to reflect a more accurate valuation of your time and work, you undercut others as well as yourself.


Olympiathequeen · 28/06/2017 17:20

Sorry. No contract other than he commissioned the work.

OP posts:

flowery · 28/06/2017 17:20

Do you not have terms and conditions covering this sort of thing?! You need clear terms of business, so that everyone is clear who owns what or has what rights.


zeebeedee · 28/06/2017 17:22

Is the artwork based on photos he has supplied? That may explain the low price and him expecting to own the copyright, if it is based on his original (possibly copyrighted) photograph.

It may also explain why he doesn't want prints sold to anyone else.

If not, he can take a long walk off a short pier, but maybe you need to be more clear about this in future


Letmesleepalready · 28/06/2017 17:25

As far as I know you keep your copyright, and if they want exclusivity they need to pay a premium, unless you've signed an agreement relinquishing it. Which is how licences work. You can license work for just one country for x price, or for more for xxx price, and there can be time constraints, so company a can buy the license for 6 months in the UK and you can still sell a license to company b in Germany for example.
As for pricing, I read that a graduate artist could earn approx £100 a day, so your picture should have taken less than 2 hours to create for that price. And if you want to earn minimum wage you need to charge about 3x that to actually earn the minimum wage amount (due to taxes etc).


Olympiathequeen · 28/06/2017 17:27

I will make it clear in future.

Zee the original photo is a 100 year old copyright free image from the us library of congress. He doesn't own it. He did own a previous work I sent him and paid me more for, so I've let that go.

I'll try to post it on here when I reduce the size.

OP posts:

LaurieFairyCake · 28/06/2017 17:29

Don't sell to him. In fact I'd be cautious about it even if you owned the copywrite as he's in America and I assume you're in England


buttonhead101 · 28/06/2017 17:32

I work with image rights. You own the copyright unless he buys it off you and you sign an all rights contract handing over copyright to him. There is no 'we had an understanding' its contractual. If you've based your work on another image you own your copy of your image but must clear the right to use the original within your image. If your buyer wants to own the copyright he must pay you A LOT more.


eddielizzard · 28/06/2017 17:33

i wouldn't sell it to him on those terms.

in future i do think you need to set out your t&c's, and it's been said before but - charge more!


OnionKnight · 28/06/2017 17:34

Can't you just ignore him?


Olympiathequeen · 28/06/2017 17:34

Exactly button. I had a lightbulb moment and realised how bonkers it is to hand copyright to anyone. No written agreeement, no 'understanding'.

OP posts:
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