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Legal Issues

#1 User is offline   Piccolo Sky 

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 08:20 AM

As this is the first time I've ever tried selling anything on Artist Alley, I need to ask what sort of legal issues everyone runs into. I'm assuming everyone has to deal with income taxes on whatever they sell, but I had the understanding that everyone else was a lot more informal. Do a lot of you get lawyers to discuss property rights and such before you sell things? I'm asking because I've been trying to get an artist to help me illustrate a book I plan on selling at ACen, and I'm getting hit up with a lot of questions about contracts, hourly rates, ownership rights, etc. etc. I plan on selling this book about as informally as people sell commissioned artwork at the convention. If it's going to be a whole slew of legal issues, I might just call the whole thing off. I could do without having to be interested in lawyers and filing a ton of paperwork.

#2 User is offline   Voltaire30 

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Posted 14 November 2012 - 06:07 PM

View PostPiccolo Sky, on 14 November 2012 - 08:20 AM, said:

As this is the first time I've ever tried selling anything on Artist Alley, I need to ask what sort of legal issues everyone runs into. I'm assuming everyone has to deal with income taxes on whatever they sell, but I had the understanding that everyone else was a lot more informal. Do a lot of you get lawyers to discuss property rights and such before you sell things? I'm asking because I've been trying to get an artist to help me illustrate a book I plan on selling at ACen, and I'm getting hit up with a lot of questions about contracts, hourly rates, ownership rights, etc. etc. I plan on selling this book about as informally as people sell commissioned artwork at the convention. If it's going to be a whole slew of legal issues, I might just call the whole thing off. I could do without having to be interested in lawyers and filing a ton of paperwork.


I wish we could be more helpful, but it seems like you are talking about two different issues. One being the legal agreement / process you and your artist are in to negotiate their contract with you, and the other being if ACen requires you to have a lawyer and go through a lot of legal proceedings before selling at ACen. No one here can really dictate what you do between you and your artist... so that is up to you. As for legal guidance or legal paperwork, we don't require that to be an Artist in the Alley. We do recommend that you become acquainted with the laws surrounding what you sell, where you sell, and what you should pay via taxes. So... Posted Image
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#3 User is offline   Christy 

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 01:49 PM

View PostPiccolo Sky, on 14 November 2012 - 08:20 AM, said:

As this is the first time I've ever tried selling anything on Artist Alley, I need to ask what sort of legal issues everyone runs into. I'm assuming everyone has to deal with income taxes on whatever they sell, but I had the understanding that everyone else was a lot more informal. Do a lot of you get lawyers to discuss property rights and such before you sell things? I'm asking because I've been trying to get an artist to help me illustrate a book I plan on selling at ACen, and I'm getting hit up with a lot of questions about contracts, hourly rates, ownership rights, etc. etc. I plan on selling this book about as informally as people sell commissioned artwork at the convention. If it's going to be a whole slew of legal issues, I might just call the whole thing off. I could do without having to be interested in lawyers and filing a ton of paperwork.


I've been away for a while, dealing with the crazy that is my day job, but I think I can provide some info that you may find useful. First, please keep in mind that I am in no way a lawyer and anything I say shouldn't be taken as formal legal advise. Just food for thought as you negioate with your artist from a writer who frequently works with artists.

Basically you need to look at how you and the artist best wish to colliborate. There are several common ways that artists and writers work together that determine how profits, ownership and selling works. In all cases, proper and mutal credits should be listed in the final product on who did what.

The first and most straight forward is the Work for Hire. What this means is you are directly hiring the artist to draw for you. In this arrangement, you typically pay the artist directly for their work, either at an hourly rate or on a piece by piece/flat rate basis. Flat rate based on the number of finished pages/pieces is the most common form of payment, but you will want to have the right of final approval of the finished piece. I also recommend if you choose to do a Work for Hire contract that you make an arrangement for a partial payment upfront (perhaps dependant on delivery of peliminary sketches) and then the remainder on full delivery and approval of finished work. In terms of rights to the work, in your case you would retain all the rights to the story and the art though most generous contracts allow the artist to reproduce and sell the commissioned artwork as long as they don't continue to make additional works without permission or try to claim credit for the written work. They also don't have any right to reproduce and sell the finished product and production costs are assumed entirely by you.

Royality based is similar to Work for Hire except that the payment is based on the number of units sold. For every book sold, the artist gets a cut of the profit. Usually the rights are the same as in Work for Hire. Sometimes you can negioate a smaller upfront/flat per piece rate coupled with a small royality to take the itch off, but the general rule of thumb is that the more you pay as a flat rate per piece, the less you pay out in royalities and vice versa.

Next is consignment. I do a lot of consignment work with my Apprentice series where I hire artists to do illustrations and then I grant them the right to reproduce and sell the finished product, which is how they gain thier monitary compensation. They do not get any direct cash payment from you. Sometimes on consignment I will assume the costs of the first production run and then give a percentage of the final product to the artist. From there, they assume the costs of making further items for sale. They have the right to do this only with the product they contributed to and cannot alter the base file. They also cannot claim ownership of the overall series. Copyright on the pieces should be considered joint on the artwork.

Finally, some artists and writers form formal studios. In this a partnership is formed in which all rights to both works are equally shared as are production expenses. To do a partnership like this, there must be a solid base of trust and an expectation that the individuals in question plan on having a good, long term working relationship. A mutal passion for the work in question is also critical if the partnership is to succeed. When forming such a group, there should be clear, written and agreed upon protocol of what happens to studio's intellectual property should the partnership be disolved. You should also discuss how much of each individuals creative work is considered studio property. Copyright is generally considered studio property and shared equally along with profits from the sale of studio products.

Too often I've seen writers solicit artwork from artists with no intention or plan for how the artist should be compensated. "Come draw my awesome manga for free so I can sell it!" And that's not fair. Some artists may be willing to do consignment or even be inspired enough by the work to join you in an open partnership. However, you need to be direct, clear and open with your terms. In the end, you need to sit down and talk with your artist on what type of collaboration works best for you that allows both of you to reap the rewards of your work. If you can't find a mutually beneficial arrangement that you both can agree upon and gives you both reasonable compensation or chance to be compensated, then it's time to find a different artist.

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