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Copyright & Commission Clarification?

Hello, I am new here so I do apologize if my posting may be incorrect, but I have been long contemplating over a couple issues regarding copyright and commissions that I figured to ask here.

As some may know, people sell their characters or hand them over to someone else. I've drawn for people who owned a character, and then later on sell their character and claim that all artwork will belong to the new owner.

My question is, who in actuality, owns the commissioned piece after a character in it is sold? Does the new character owner own the commissioned piece from which the previous owner originally commissioned?

The only reason I ask is because I find that whoever commissions me, owns the image (alongside by my ownership), regardless of the characters involved (given, they either own the characters or have permission to use).

So I appreciate any input on this matter. I don't feel comfortable with my artwork floating around without knowing so, even with my watermark put on it.

In a different, but short matter, I would also like to ask what should I do in the event that someone blatantly tells me they will remove a watermark off a commission they paid for?

Thanks, everyone!
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( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 25th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
On item 2: don't take the commission.
Aug. 25th, 2013 02:32 am (UTC)
Unless you sign a contract explicitly selling your rights away, the rights to the art belong to you the artist. That is a commission. Work-for-hire is when the client owns the piece in the end. They are only paying for your time to create the image, nothing else.

You may grant reposting rights, which is the norm in the furry community, but it isn't a client's automatic right. The artist has to grant it.

When it comes to selling adoptables, the person (unless stated) is selling the design. The art will remain theirs. If you draw a commission for a character that has changed hands, the art is still yours. The person only has the reposting rights to the art if you grant it.

ETA: For the second one- Don't take the commission. The art is yours. If they do not want to abide by your ToS if you do not want them to edit it, then they cannot purchase services from you.

Edited at 2013-08-25 02:33 am (UTC)
Aug. 25th, 2013 02:33 am (UTC)
Adoptable Stuff: Regardless of what happens to the 'owner' of the character, the artist will always hold copyright over the image created. (Unless those rights are specifically sold) One way to battle this, is to place in your TOS about adoptable character policies, or simply do not allow adoption after the initial sale.

Watermark Stuff: Personally, I give my customers a non-watermarked image in the end so this second question rarely applies to me. If I were to give the image WITH watermark, I'd include that in my TOS. If you have done this and they wish to remove it, remind them it's against your original agreement. Though regardless I'm fairly sure editing your work in ANY way, violates your copyright on the image.

It's irritating, and people remove watermarks often from art. One of the best things you can do is put the word out there that the customer does this, hence making their options for artists much smaller. No artist will want to work with a customer who removes watermarks like that!

If I'm wrong, feel free to correct me! This is such a hard grey area for even experienced artists, and I'd really like some hard facts on it myself.
Aug. 25th, 2013 02:36 am (UTC)
I'd like to second this in giving your clients a personal non-watermarked version. You can also request that version not be uploaded online by the client.
Aug. 25th, 2013 02:39 am (UTC)
Some clients (my favorite ones) actually really appreciate having both marked and unmarked, as they like to upload a smaller watermarked one to their galleries! This way they can both plug the artist, as well as show off something they are proud of purchasing.
Aug. 25th, 2013 04:10 am (UTC)
I'm one of those types. I like having the big image for myself--just to look at, or as a personal computer wallpaper sometimes--and the smaller and/or watermarked one to share.
Aug. 25th, 2013 07:35 am (UTC)
"You can also request that version not be uploaded online by the client."

You can ask, but don't count on people actually doing as you ask :/
A lot of non-artists don't see what the big deal is with large, un-watermarked files floating around the internet.
Aug. 25th, 2013 04:19 pm (UTC)
this is why I put my name on the picture, and try to put it in a place where it doesn't bother so people can always google the name if they want to find who did the picture B:
Aug. 25th, 2013 10:25 pm (UTC)
Of course, thats always a problem as well for those who dislike it.

For me, it's not a huge deal. If the customer wants the unwatermarked art out there for anyone to see, I let them. In the end, I'm not all too focused on it, and would rather protect my personal art more then someones commission. Not to say they aren't worthy of protection, but I let the customer have the responsibility to do so. I got other things to worry about!
Aug. 25th, 2013 05:44 am (UTC)
Unless there's a signed contact, the artist will always own the rights, period.
Aug. 25th, 2013 07:34 am (UTC)
People don't own commissions, their characters are featured in it, but especially at fandom prices they just pay for labor (if that).

Commissions are freelance work (as opposed to work for hire, for which you sign away the rights) so any rights not specifically negotiated and paid for beforehand by the customer remains with the artist. Which includes redistribution (reposting) and editing rights.

In short, the commission is owned by the artist unless the customer pays extra for the rights of ownership.

Now the commercial rights are very relevant to this issue, personally I would not tolerate someone using my commission to include in a character auction. The art would influence the price of the sale, which is using the art commercially. Unless people bought commercial rights, they don't get to use it in any relation to sales and auctions etc.

And since most people don't buy any rights, they also can't sell any rights and the person buying the character design doesn't have any rights to the existing artwork, even if they paid the character design seller for it.

The rights remain with the artist whom had permission to draw the character for a commission, so a new owner has no rights over the image.

As for watermark removal; Is it an actual watermark that might interfere with the art? Or just your name? I know there's a guy out there going around telling artists to not sign their name. ALWAYS SIGN YOUR NAME.

That aside, odds are your other work has watermarks. They knew what they were getting into beforehand. You're under no obligation to provide them with un-watermarked art, especially at a high resolution.

If you're okay with the idea though, you could offer it for a significant surcharge. Otherwise, tell him "no".
Aug. 25th, 2013 02:40 pm (UTC)
Blatantly telling an artist that they're going to remove a watermark is just downright offensive. I agree with NeoLucky, get the word out about that commissioner, and never do business with them again.
Aug. 25th, 2013 06:55 pm (UTC)
The first portion of your query is almost exactly one I started to write earlier this week. I've been seeing more and more commissioners 'reselling' or 'selling' their characters. This could be adoptable characters, standard furry characters or ones that were developed for stories/rp/etc., but no matter the original character source, they will include the 'rights' to existing artwork of that character.

My understanding has always been that the owner of the character does not have the right to transfer 'ownership' of existing images unless they were also the artist of those images. This is because most commissioners within the furry fandom,or in most internet artwork transactions don't go so far as to purchase the rights to the image. Even reposting rights are not included or transferable except at the artist's discretion.

Technically neither the original commissioner nor the 'purchaser' of the character own the commission, as the artist, you do. As a commissioners I've been getting really uncomfortable watching people reselling adoptables/selling personal characters 'bundled with existing artwork' for higher prices based on the number of pieces they can include.
Aug. 25th, 2013 10:28 pm (UTC)
Same here, I personally do not like the "bundle" thing. I see higher prices for "more art", and really it feels like a cashgrab instead of selling anything remotely tangible.

I'll never be rock solid on adoptable sales, or character sales frankly. Being commissioned to design a character is one thing, but pre-selling already made artwork?...I don't really get it! If a character IS for sale, I feel like there should be something more offered then just "Heres some pics I already had".
Aug. 28th, 2013 02:09 pm (UTC)
The bundle-thing gets especially iffy when it includes gift-art.
That just seems like trying to make a quick buck out of art you got for free and that doesn't sit well with me, to be honest.
Aug. 27th, 2013 08:40 am (UTC)
When you buy an "adoptable", all you are "purchasing" is a license to DISPLAY the image on your profile/FA gallery/what-have-you. You aren't buying the rights/copyright of the image (which the artist owns unless they specifically hand it over).

The artist could print and sell a thousand prints of said adoptable and you couldn't do a thing about it, legally speaking XD

They could also "sell" the adoptable to someone else; since Person #2 would ALSO only be buying the "right to display" the adoptable (unless, again, the artist specifically mentioned that the original purchaser was buying the exclusive license to display, etc.)

If the artist makes it explicitly clear that they are selling the RIGHTS to the character or artwork, then that is what they are doing. I'm pretty sure that they don't have to go through all the legal contortions of signing a contract. If they relinquish their rights, they relinquish their rights and that's that. They can't suddenly decide to retract them later.

It's also important to note that IDEAS and DESIGNS are NOT COPYRIGHTABLE. You cannot copyright a cat with wings. You cannot copyright your specific species of dragon. You cannot copyright your rainbow husky with red freckles. Not every character is "distinct" enough to be trademarked (plus you would have to show a profit/tradeability of the character's likeness, and that's a whole 'nother subject I'm not going to get into here), and the fact remains that most furry and fantasy critters and characters aren't distinct and unique enough to claim any kind of copyright.

So, when you "purchase" a character from an artist, take it with a grain of salt - you don't really own a copyright on the character.

It is also VERY IMPORTANT to note that copyright law is DIFFERENT depending on the country! American copyright law is highly different from European copyright law. So, the copyright issues on a website MAY depend on where its servers are located, or possibly where the artist is located, or where the purchaser is located; it depends.

And as for a commissioner altering your artwork after they purchase it from you - see my above answer. If you and the commissioner live in the USA, you can't do anything about it, legally speaking. If they PURCHASE artwork from you, they own the artwork and can alter it as they see fit. They could print it out and rub lipstick across it, they could draw mustaches on it - you get the picture. There's not much you can do if you've already sold them the artwork/commission. You could refuse to do so, but once you've sold it, legally they own the art and you cannot demand that they do not remove the watermark, etc. It sucks, but that's the way copyright law and ownership laws work in America.
Aug. 27th, 2013 05:40 pm (UTC)
On the last point. If they posted it and or handed out the edited image you would have grounds to dispute what they are doing. As that falls outside of right of first sale.

*On the point of "It's also important to note that IDEAS and DESIGNS are NOT COPYRIGHTABLE" I want to state that there are acceptations for items that have a function. Its a way to negate patent theft in that case and as it doesn't apply to furries exactly but I though it was a good point to add. Its more to help little guys who think up something and don't have the money to do anything with it them selves.
*Huge asterisk this information is based on Australian copyright.

[Edit was for a few spelling issues I forgot to check before clicking post! :C]

Edited at 2013-08-27 05:41 pm (UTC)
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )


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