Selling original art featuring someone else's characters.
July 18, 2011 3:07 PM   Subscribe

[Comic book art filter] I did a "pin up" image to be included in a fellow artist's graphic novel. He asked me to do it, I did it gratis, he liked it and put it in the book. I can sell the original art, right? And keep all the proceeds?

I'm heading down to SDCC this week and am taking the original art for this image with me. I was thinking I might put it up for sale. Yet the little voice in the back of my head makes me think I should at least *notify* my friend (or perhaps offer him first dibs) before I sell it to random strangers on the con floor. And for some reason, another part of me thinks I should either keep it or give it to this friend, but not sell it to anyone. I's clingy like that.

Note I wouldn't think twice about selling prints of the same image.

Feel free to let me know that I am, in fact, thinking about this way too much.
posted by TangoCharlie to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
Best answer: You may be overthinking it a bit... if it were me I might notify the friend, casually, "I'm bringing a bunch of art [including piece X] to [event] on [date] - let me know before then if you might like first dibs on it." That way they know there's a deadline to the offer. Since it was skilled work you did for free as a favor, they can't really begrudge you wanting to make some money from it.
posted by Zephyrial at 3:29 PM on July 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

You gave him permission to use your image in his book, and the only right he holds over your work is the right to display your image in his book, unless you explicitly gave him more rights than that, like right to first display for two years or something like that.

If he is doing anything with your work OTHER than printing it in his book, then you need to get contractual like, last week about it.

YOU OWN THE WORK, you control exactly, how, when, and for how long anyone can do anything with it. Even if it is a derivative work.
posted by roboton666 at 3:53 PM on July 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not yet a lawyer, and this is definitely not legal advice you should rely on.

One reason you're not getting many answers may be as follows.
- You haven't included enough information about your conversation with your friend for a legal professional to be 100% certain what rights you gave away (or eg what rights you led your friend to believe he could rely on exclusively retaining).
- And anyway a legal professional is unlikely to try to answer such a specific question over the Internet.

As general rules, which may or may not apply in this case, the propositions in roboton's post look approximately right in the jurisdictions I'm familiar with -- but if any kind of serious $ or remotely large-scale publication is on the line, do yourself a favor and talk to a lawyer.

fuckfuckfuck the bar's in a week
posted by foursentences at 5:57 PM on July 18, 2011

I think you should sell it. It's still original art no matter how you swing it, one of a kind, and not mass merchandising like prints would be. And your friend didn't pay you for its creation or use in the book and shouldn't object to you trying to make something from your time and effort. If you want to do something nice for your friend, plug the graphic novel it appeared in and call it a day.
posted by everyday_naturalist at 8:53 PM on July 18, 2011

I came here to say more or less what everyday_naturalist said. Sell the art, verbally promote the friend.
posted by D.Billy at 10:29 PM on July 18, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the input, guys. As Zephyrial mentioned, I may be (see: "am definitely") overthinking it.

To clarify, this particular situation really is a very casual arrangement. Any worst case scenario could probably be resolved by a round of beers. I thought I might ask to see if anyone had had any similar experiences. In retrospect, kind of a niche non-issue.
posted by TangoCharlie at 11:08 PM on July 18, 2011

If you are the artist and you did it for free without any contract then the art is yours to sell or do with as you wish. You should still ask your friend if you could promote it as being "featured in graphic novel X".
posted by JJ86 at 6:52 AM on July 19, 2011

« Older Body Wash for Very Sensitive Skin?   |   Volunteer or work full-time while completing a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.