Mad Magazine cartoonist Tom Richmond has posted an excellent on the dangers of giving away one’s artwork without compensation. The interview is done in a response to a video interview with Sci-Fi writer Harlan Ellison.
The point he is making is twofold. First, that professionals should not give away their work. Almost anybody who markets their creative skills looking for work will get contacted by people wanting to use their talents for nothing or for peanuts. This is exponentially true now that the Internet is the primary source of both marketing for work and looking for those to do work. It is so easy and cheap to fire off an e-mail to anybody asking for whatever they need. In many cases such inquiries are asking an artist or other creative professional to produce some work for nothing or for a fraction of a living rate, but not always. Sometimes they are asking to use something they have already produced, like in Harlan’s story here. In those cases it would be so easy to just say, “Yeah, go ahead and use it”. After all, it’s already done and will take you no more time, right? So therefore it has no value?? That is the perception of many would-be users and sadly of some creators.
It is not true that stock images (ones already created) have no value. They have great value. Just ask any stock house that buys the copyrights to previously created artwork from artists and then turns around and sells them to end users. Just ask those salivating over the “Orphan Works Act”, which if passed will open up a world of stock art to be used in lieu of paying a professional for the rights to use an image. Remember that illustrators are not really selling their time in creating a piece of art, they are selling the rights to use that art. That value is still there for the copyright holder. It is unfair to the illustrator, and damaging to his/her profession, to just give that value away. It’s damaging because every time an image is just given away is one less job for an illustrator trying to earn a living in the real world.