Author wants to use photos of my work; what do I need to know before giving permission?
February 1, 2012 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm an artist who was recently contacted for permission to use images of my art in a book; I'm inclined to give it but am unsure what pitfalls to be aware of.

Hello MetaFilter; once again I turn to you for advice. :)

I received the following email today (names have been redacted):

"Hello [ogunther], In the book I am writing a section will be about Ponoko and this email is to ask permission to use a screen capture of Ponoko's website with images of your work showing. You will be fully credited as the originator of the work shown. I have been commissioned to write the book by London Publisher A&C Black who specialise in quality art, design and craft books. If you need more information just ask and if you are interested and you took the photographs of your work I just need you give your permission. I will be contacting CEO of Ponoko to ask their permission too and will do this once I hear from you. Best wishes, []"

On one hand, I'm extremely excited at the idea of having my work featured in a publication however my cautious side is worried that I don't really know what I might be agreeing to.

I ran some quick internet searches and have found nothing to suggest this email is anything other than legitimate however I am still unsure how to proceed. I've never had a request like this so I don't know what (if anything) I need to stipulate regarding terms of use or what else I should be aware of before I agree to letting her and the publisher use images of my work (or perhaps she does not actually need my permission and she is simply being considerate).

She didn't send a link to the actual page she is hoping to use but I would assume its either this blog post or my "store" page. I have no reason (that I'm aware of) to try to limit access to these or any other images of my work as my work is not easily reproducible. I'm more than happy to share them with anyone who cares to see them, I'm just a bit apprehensive about what I don't know.

Any advice is greatly appreciated, MetaFilter! Thanks.
posted by ogunther to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You could let them use the images under a Creative Commons license. There are various options for setting up the license, depending on what your concerns are.
posted by mikeand1 at 1:40 PM on February 1, 2012

Licensing is way, way more complicated than you probably realize. Do you get paid at all? On what basis? Is the license good for just this publication, or does it include reprints and future editions? What about ebooks? What exactly does attribution entail? A caption with the picture? A footnote? An endnote?

I hate to say it, but it's probably time to contact either a lawyer or, better yet, an agent. A good entertainment lawyer will be able to help you, but a good agent will be able not only to do that, but to keep on the lookout for other opportunities.
posted by valkyryn at 1:43 PM on February 1, 2012

The dacs website might be a useful place to look.
posted by pmcp at 1:54 PM on February 1, 2012

I get these kinds of requests all the time for photos and documents on my websites. Often I am perfectly willing to allow the use they want, but it's a pain in the butt to review and fill out their required forms. I just ask for a fee ($200 or so). I figure if they really want it, $200 is worth my time. If they're not willing to spend it, sayonara. 90% never reply back.

It feels like a nice middle ground between just saying "sure" and valkyryn's lawyer.

Some of the more interesting uses I've licensed: a Christie's catalog in the UK and an Italian government website.
posted by letitrain at 2:04 PM on February 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Having worked on the other side of the permissions thing, I would say $200 is a bit steep if it's a small publishing house. They just don't have the kind of budget/get the kind of sales to be spending $200 on an image. If they're big, though, I'd say that's fair. At the place I worked, $25-50 plus two copies of the book was a fairly common honorarium.

Also, ask them for the terms of the license first. How many copies of the book? Will it be an ebook? If so, will it be a restricted ebook and will the images be included? If they're trying to get exclusive rights to the reproduction (I doubt they would), that would be pretty shady, and it would also be worth a lot more. The contract should say "non-exclusive". If it doesn't, ask them to add it. Time limits can be tricky. No publishing house wants a time limit; many copyright holders wants a time limit. It's sort of a cost-benefit balance: should terms be renegotiated every 3, 5, or 7 years, should the book stay out for that long and in that many editions.

I don't know about contacting a lawyer. I don't think the money involved here is worth it. Maybe I'm wrong, though.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 4:40 PM on February 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

A lot of people would also just ask for two copies of the book.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 4:42 PM on February 1, 2012

I just looked up A&C black. It's a Bloombsbury imprint. You may want to ask for a bit more. $100-$300 depending on estimated sales and the size of the image (is it a full-page reprint or just a part of a page; is it a color reprint or a black-and-white copy).
posted by outlandishmarxist at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers everyone...lots to think about. I'm going to ask her for more details because its obvious after reading all your responses that I am assuming alot so I need to get her to clarify exactly which images she wants to use and how, first. :)
posted by ogunther at 4:58 PM on February 1, 2012

You also have to decide if you care that much. Let's say you found your picture in a book and no one asked, would you be upset? I would be, but not enough to get a lawyer involved, but then I am not a professional artist. I almost always grant permission to use my material to anyone that asks. I've asked a lot of people to take down things they've used without permission. Usually I get an apology and compliance. I've had things I've written appear in books without anyone even telling me.

For the most part I don't care, but then this isn't how I feed myself.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:39 PM on February 1, 2012

I'm another person who does rights and repro (for the museum I work for). The publisher may have a standard form that you can use, so no need to draw one up yourself via a lawyer - you can always amend things if you feel you need to, just talk with the person about it. Look for details, all of which you can amend - world rights or US rights only? English only? It it a small run of books? University or other academic press, or a for-profit press? Is there an e-version? Some people charge more if the illustration goes on the cover, or is in color or black and white, small or large, etc. You can tailor the agreement to how you feel about the project - perhaps you don't want to charge anything, and just want a copy or two of the publication. You also should tell them how you want them to credit you in the book.

Our fees tend to be in the hundred to hundred-fifty for non-profit usage, and about two hundred to two-fifty for for-profit use, just to give you a range.
posted by PussKillian at 8:25 PM on February 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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