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Mass permission or no permission?

I want to avoid being the bad customer, so I'm posting here looking for opinions and advice for a very specific project I'd like to undertake. This requires some backstory and context, however, so bear with me.

I've never had a personal character in the fandom, and consequently I have a really hard time knowing what to ask for in con badges or commissions. So, lacking creative thought, generally I never buy any, settling instead for the occasional print. Then one day my local art supply store started selling teeny tiny gag sketchbooks attached to keychains. I took off the keychains, and voilà, instant tiny sketchbook! And it didn't matter that I had no idea what to ask people to draw anymore, I simply said, "Draw whatever fits."

Over the years I've accumulated close to just over 100 of these tiny sketches. (The sketchbook pages are about 1.4 x 1.8 inches big.) Some drawings are quick, cheap magic-marker doodles, some use incredibly fine-tipped pencils or inks, some are in color, and so on. I insisted on PG but there's the occasional unwanted boob in there. Some I paid for ($1-$5), some were freebies, some were asked for and some were unasked for. ("Oh, your sketchbook? I passed it down the table to some other artists.")

Now this is all fine and dandy, but I stopped collecting last year, and I now have an eclectic set of tiny sketches in several of these tiny sketchbooks. (Which weren't made for repeated handling so a lot of the pages are now falling out.) And recently I thought, can I actually *do* anything with these? And then I thought, hey, yeah - I could mount them and donate it to the MFF charity auction.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. Can I mount these all together, label them with the artists' names, and submit it to the charity auction without the original artists' permissions? It's all original work, but every artist went into it thinking it was a cute gag, as did I; I never planned to do this ahead of time, so distribution rights and such were never discussed. Does the charity angle make any difference?

Doing it without asking permission is the easy thing to do, but feels, well, scummy. But the alternative is a frightening and daunting task of having to individually ask dozens and dozens of artists, none of whom I know how to contact offhand, but some of which I know by reputation are either very reclusive, or are slow and unresponsive, or have left the fandom in an angry huff.

Ideas, suggestions, advice, strategies? Lay it on me, folks, and thanks in advance for your time and consideration!
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Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
nambroth
Aug. 19th, 2008 12:17 am (UTC)
Legally, you have every right to sell the single original sketches (or donate as it were). As long as you are not reproducing or attempting to sell any rights to the images, you may resell as you please. If someone buys an original piece of art from me, then some years later sells it to someone else, there is nothing wrong with that. It is an item, the ownership of which is legally yours. Rights still belong to the artists, but the physical piece of paper(s, or canvas, or whatever the art may be) is yours to sell should you please.

Ethically, I think what you are doing as amiable. You aren't selling them to profit, not that there is anything wrong with it if you do. But you are donating them to a charity auction, which I think is really neat.

The fact that you are labeling them with the artist's names is a step above and beyond what you need to do and is very classy of you! :}

In closing, I think what you plan on doing is okay. I would never expect every person that has ever bought or received a free sketch or original from me to contact me to ask permission to sell/give/trade it. It is theirs, and as long as they don't infringe upon my rights they may do with it as they wish in terms of selling/trading it. :}
bladespark
Aug. 19th, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
Nambroth has said it as well as I could. They're your sketches. You don't own the copyrights to them, you couldn't print up copies and sell those, but you can certainly sell the originals, especially if you're giving proper credit to the artists.
mazz
Aug. 19th, 2008 01:15 am (UTC)
Couldn't have said it better myself.

I want to add tho, anyone who gets mad at you for donating them to a charity auction is a douche.
foxhack
Aug. 19th, 2008 12:21 am (UTC)
... Are you going to make money off of that?

No?

Then you shouldn't feel bad. You're selling something that you bought to raise money for a charity. If anything, I'd scan the pictures and give a copy to the original artists, but that's just me.
starcharmer
Aug. 19th, 2008 12:43 am (UTC)
Yah, but scanning a sketchbook that's not spiral bound is hard enough as it is [though I don't know if his tiny ones are spiral bound, I'm assuming they aren't since he said pages were falling out], let alone scanning hundreds of pages of itty bitty sketchbooks. x_x That would take so much time and effort and it would be horrible.
Plus, then he'd have to find and contact the original artists, which he already said was a daunting task. Maybe if they asked for a scan, I'd attempt one, but otherwise...not really needed.
badkitty
Aug. 19th, 2008 01:36 am (UTC)
IAWTC, i would post in a few art forums that you believe some of the artists may linger in- that you are wanting to donate these and if any of the artists are wanting a scan.
(maybe a photo of the wee sketchbooks will ring a bell, as i know firsthand, how easy it is to forget HOW many pictures you draw for people at cons)
xianjaguar
Aug. 19th, 2008 12:44 am (UTC)
Copy-pasting my response from the OTHER community you asked this in.

"Well, I would say that re-selling these sketches is the same as re-selling any collected work of art.
Art is collected and sold outside of fandom all the time without permission from the artists. It's perfectly legal to do.

Once someone has legally obtained a drawing of mine, whether it was bought or a gift, it is theirs to do with as they please as far as keeping or re-selling goes. The only thing they do NOT have the right to do is make copies of it or reproduce/distribute the reproduction in any way.

The only place where it might get 'sticky' (and only mildly so) is in the realm of the art given as gifts. Re-selling that art might raise an eyebrow or two amongst the Ann Landers types, depending on the circumstances, but again, it's perfectly legal to do so."
dronon
Aug. 19th, 2008 08:04 am (UTC)
Thanks everyone for your advice and responses! The consensus seems to be that it's a perfectly fine project to do without seeking permission because they're originals and it's going to charity. If they were reproductions, that's a legal no-no. Or if I was collecting freebies with the deliberate intention of selling them for my personal profit, that's also not so nice. In any case, I'm feeling very much relieved! Now all I have to do is learn about mounting artwork and adhesives and ... panic! (grin) I may also pop up on message boards in the near future asking if anyone can identify signatures and things.

P.S. Xianjaguar: Heh - I posted in *five* communities/message forums. Wasn't sure where to go!
nixjim13
Aug. 19th, 2008 09:13 am (UTC)
Just as a heads up in case the artist/s in question are from some European Countries/ Britain/ Australia/ New Zealand. These countries have in place (or are putting into place) something referred to as 'Resale Royalties'. It's a very grey and new area, and probably not applicable in this case, but effectively it means that the artist may have a legal right to a percentage of the sale if the moneys made are over a certain amount (i.e. http://www.dacs.org.uk/pdfs/Artist%20FAQs_0907_4pp.pdf ).I doubt you'd ever see anyone challenge you in court over something like this.

I would attempt to let the artists know what you want to do, as a courtesy - most artists I'd think would be ok with what you're proposing, some would possibly help promote the auction.

I just wanted to clarify as US laws are very different to other country's copyright laws and these kinds of threads get read by people from all over the world. What's legal in the US, isn't always legal elsewhere - even if the sale is being made in the US.
the_lest
Aug. 19th, 2008 10:59 am (UTC)
I didn't know about this... thanks for the link! *bookmarks*
lilenth
Aug. 20th, 2008 04:16 pm (UTC)

Actually I think there's a similar US law, but it's only for large resales ie over something like 5 thousand dollars. Most of those laws on apply to resales far above what most artwork goes for now anyway.
the_lest
Aug. 19th, 2008 10:58 am (UTC)
Look at it this way. If you went into a comic store and bought, say, a Spider-man comic, you aren't buying Spider-Man himself, and you don't own the rights to the comic. You're just buying the prints, and if you want to sell that comic later on, there's nothing to stop you from doing so. The store that sells the comics don't own the rights either. This is basically the same principle. :)

Personally, I would make scans of the pictures first, possibly collecting them all onto one digital "page" for my own viewing pleasure and in case any of the artists wants to see their work later down the line, but you don't have to do that...
hbruton
Aug. 19th, 2008 02:22 pm (UTC)
You have ever right to resell original art for your own profit much less for a deserving charity. I think it's a way, way cool thing to do!
sergeant
Sep. 8th, 2008 05:21 pm (UTC)
It's no different than someone buying an original piece in some expensive art gallery and then later reselling or auctioning it off for profit or otherwise. The *problem* comes in when if you try to make copies of the original and sell it for profit.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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