About a year ago I created an image for a commission from a local company. It was pretty simple and I didn't use a contract or anything (was kind of dumb then, I use contracts a lot now) because they just wanted to put it on the wall in a frame. Well, recently they started using the image in their advertising and in fact made it part of their logo! They are using the image EVERYWHERE now including their Website.
I don't want to take any legal action, and I know it would devastate the company if I made them stop using the image for that purpose.
So, my plan is to set up a meeting with them and lay it all out on the table. Then, I would offer to sell them all the rights to the image.
My question is: is this the appropriate course of action?
And if so, what kind of contract should I draw up for transfer of rights on an image they already have? Also, do I really own all rights to that image? Things seem sort of messed up because I didn't use a contract outlining those kinds of things.
I hope this is the right place to post this question
If they commissioned the art to HANG, they did NOT buy any rights to reproduce it, in ANY form. Yes, you own all the rights, even without a contract. There very rarely will be a contract for a commission. Usually a contract is only needed if they are buying some portion of the rights, and then you need a contract to spell out WHICH rights.
How to proceed is a good question. My guess is your gut instinct to approach them in a friendly manner and offer to sell them rights for use is a good one. If they get agitated at all (which might be a possibility because few people anticipate potential legal trouble, or needing to buy what they think they already own), politely tell them they need to look into copyright laws, as selling a physical piece of artwork does not include ANY copyrights.
I hope you update us on how everything comes out.
Thanks for the input Dweller. To be honest I don't do many fine art/ wall art kind of commissions. I've done some work-for-hire and other things like book covers and websites where a contract has been necesary. So wasn't sure how that really worked. Makes more sense now
I'm going to try meeting with them next week but more input would still be appreciated
Before you even have a meeting, register the artwork. The fee will be well worth it if there's any problem. Info at http://copyright.gov.
**Finished Work Thread **Process Thread **Edges Tutorial
Crash Course for Artists, Illustrators, and Cartoonists, NYC, the 2013 Edition!
"Work is more fun than fun."
"Art is supposed to punch you in the brain, and it's supposed to stay punched."
Thank you Elwell, I never thought about that. Man, $45 seems like a lot to register a work though. I know where you are going with this; if things turned out badly then I've already got the government on my side, but to be honest, I think they would stop using the image if I just asked them. Either way, I signed up for the electronic version and it would be a good precaution.
I guess this leads me to another question:
I have never registered any piece of artwork before. How would that affect signing rights over to someone else? Would I have to notify the government?
I'm not able to provide legal advice, but from what I understand, if you didn't copyright a piece, and you signed away all rights to the piece, the person/entity you granted copyright should be the one to worry about registration, not you.
If, on the other hand, you registered an image and eventually you want to sell all rights to a person/entity, you and/or the person/entity would sign an agreement to transfer copyright, and you or the person/entity would then send in a record of documentation stating that you had transferred all rights to the person/entity.
And regardless, your work is yours from the instant you create it, UNLESS you sign away ALL rights -- registering at the copyright office will certainly protect you in case you need proof, but copyright law currently is on your side as the creator. (The Orphaned Works Bill might well change all that in the near future, but for the time being...)