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Commissioned Art on Calling Cards?

I want to make a run of calling cards for myself, and showcase some of my artwork on the back. Some of my best work is commissioned work from drawing other people's roleplay characters and fursonas.

I understand that I own the rights to the images (and my customers get a little explanation of that before I work with them, it's right in my TOS) and that it's unlikely that they've registered a trademark for their D&D character or fursona, but would it be in poor taste to use the images on my calling cards to promote myself?

I've sent emails asking my customers for their permission before I order the cards, but are there any legal concerns I should be aware of?

I of course would NOT be selling the cards, just handing them out for free when I want to quickly give my contact information and a little sample of my work to a potential customer/friend/networking connection.

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( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 13th, 2011 06:43 pm (UTC)
technically, you have full copy and distribution rights over all of your drawings. When the commissioner commissioned you, they gave you permission to draw those characters.

Whether or not you use your art of their characters is completely at your disclosure. You dont even need to ask them if you can use it and i dont think anyone would really mind (read i probably wouldnt), but you do get a cookie for asking anyway. :3

but under copyright law you own all the rights to your artwork and as such are allowed to fully modify, distribute, copy, or resell if you so choose all of your works. (unless it was agreed that all rights would be fully transferred, which i doubt)

tl;dr: no, there is no legal issue considering you are the owner.
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
I don't think they'd mind, but since I'm running a batch through moo.com with a pretty large selection of my work, I figured if anyone DID mind it wouldn't bother me to just pull their image from the batch as a courtesy, if not as a legal obligation.

All the same, it never hurts to ask and make sure I've covered my bases, you know?

Thank you!
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
hey no prob :3
im versed in copyright law more than i'd like to be >.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 13th, 2011 11:07 pm (UTC)
you do if you drew it. trademark is what youre thinking of.
so legally they do own it. if copyright worked that way, and anything dawn of an already existing character was instantaneously owned by the person who created the character, A)disney wouldnt press any lawsuits(theyd just collect the revenue) and b) i could say that i am the owner and sole copyright holder of my characters images, even though they were made by other people.
so yeah, Registered Trademarks are what give someone the legal rights to the representation of their character, and for the most part, people dont label their art with the unregistered trademark symbol. (and i doubt any furry has bothered registering trademark)

tl;dr if copyright worked that way, the artist wouldnt exist.

besides, they arent selling the cards.
Jun. 13th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
er... a little more to the point, the problem is that mandyseley DID in fact create those works. the creator of said "creation" is, in essence, the person who put the pencil to the paper. even so, she already has the consent/permission to create the character, so even if there was trademark, shes in complete compliance- and she can even distribute it at her leisure because she never handed off copyright ownership.
Jun. 13th, 2011 11:25 pm (UTC)
fragmented thought processes FTW!

anyway, i guess an apt example would be mandy even being able to post her works in the first place; you couldnt even express the validity of your skills if you had to say "oh look here here and here at these other peoples characters, yeah i drew those".

i could easily see a scam operation set up by commissioning numerous artists to draw one character, then turning around and suing them for making it in the first place, IF copyright worked that way.
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
I'll second what mc_kitfox said and add that for something like copyright, you need the party to actually sue you. It's not like randomjoe32 can say "Hey! That looks like randomjoe24's character! I should sue the artist for using that likeness!" They have no case.

Similarly, you have the permission from the people in question, and even if you didn't, you own the copyright. I wouldn't worry about it. It's a non-issue.
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
Well, I haven't heard back from them just yet, but I figured "asking" them would be a good way to weed out people who might cause a scene later on, even if they didn't have a legal leg to stand on.

Just making sure I'd covered my bases and hadn't forgotten anything before I put in the actual order - thank you for replying!
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:07 pm (UTC)
To the best of my knowledge, there are no legal concerns unless they specifically requested in your contract that the image not be reproduced in another manner.

It might be worth elaborating your TOS or providing examples of what retaining rights actually means. Example: "Your image may be used in [artist's] promotional material such as business cards or website graphics." It covers yourself for future commissions and helps the customer understand a little better.

Some artists I know also charge a slight fee if their customer requests restricted distribution for the image. The artist can lose valuable advertising if they are not allowed to publish or display the piece anywhere.
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)
I thought about that, I'll probably be updating my TOS today. I DO have a note in there that I reserve ownership of the image itself (my TOS is here), but you're right that a little clarification of what that means wouldn't be a bad idea at all for the future. Thank you!
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:18 pm (UTC)
Looking in you TOS it's unclear to me what you mean by "The image will not be sold to anyone else" as that seems vague as to whether you won't sell prints, or you won't sell the copyright.

However, by outlining that they can't use it on fliers or whatever, you're saying that you still have that right.
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
"Sold" pretty much covers both, I thought, that the rights won't be sold and I won't be making prints of it... but yeah, I'll straighten up that section a bit.
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:28 pm (UTC)
Well it's more "The Image" that made it confusing to me. The image could refer to the rights of the image, or the image on a sheet of paper.
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:15 pm (UTC)
I would really suggest just asking. I've met ONE person who's actually cared, and I agreed to contact him before I did anything with work I'd done for him. Whether or not that's a legal precedent, I have lots of other art I could use for a similar purpose, so it's just not worth the headache XD

So yeah, it comes off as nice c:
Jun. 13th, 2011 07:19 pm (UTC)
Yep, that's what I thought. It's nice to make sure I have all my ducks in a row where legal matters are concerned, just in case -- but since I'll be printing a batch with several different images, if anyone minds, I'll probably be fine with just pulling it from the group, heh.
Jun. 13th, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)
Legally, you're fine.

I think asking or at least running it by the customer is the nice thing to do, though. Most people won't care, anyway.
Jun. 13th, 2011 10:34 pm (UTC)
I do this too (also through Moo!). It's not like you're making any direct profit from using the work that you've created for someone, which is where some people may argue with your decision.
Jun. 13th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
I think asking permission is key. While you'll legally be fine, you don't want to be known as that artist that used other people's characters without permission. I would think most people would be perfectly fine with it since you're not making money off the cards, so getting their okay would be easy and worth avoiding any future hassle.
Jun. 14th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
That's pretty much what I figured. Legally, I'm in the clear, but misconceptions about copyright and trademark are rampant on the internet, and I didn't want to deal with someone trying to cause drama anyway. Just because they can't sue me doesn't mean they can't cause a stink and make things miserable for me for a while.
Jun. 14th, 2011 08:37 am (UTC)
You're not really using the fursona to promote your work, it's about the art. You have full rights to your art unless you explicitly give it away or sell it, so you're well within your rights but you can ask the people involved as a courtesy.
Jun. 14th, 2011 02:54 pm (UTC)
Legally you're fine since you own the copyright to the image that you created unless you explicitly sign the rights away.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


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