Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Never Sign A Work for Hire Contract


"Reynolds, we now own all rights to your image. You'll have to pony up $100 to the company every time you look in a mirror."

When you sign something that says you are giving your rights away, then that's what it means. Mike Strang blogs about his bad experience with Platinum Comics here.

As Xavier Xerxes says in his comments, we don't know what the other side says here, so best to take this with some salt over the shoulder.

For the work I do (magazine cartoons), I just put a line in my invoice saying that copyright stays with li'l ol' me.

Another Journalista! hat tip!

6 comments:

Mark Anderson said...

I meant to ask you this when you did your invoice blog a bit back.

Will putting that on the invoice work? Is it like the ol' "I'm gonna get all rights as by you signing this check" thingy?

I'm not trying to play devil's advocate here or anything, I'm just curious about the legalities.

Mike Lynch said...

I've always thought of the invoice as an agreement between the buyer and content provider. I think that the statement would work in a dispute.

The funny thing is that, at least once a year, I have a client who wants me to have even more things detailed. Here are some examples:

----------------------------

The cartoonist is the author and is solely responsible for content.

The cartoon/illustration will be original and will not have heretofore been used or published in whole or in part.

Cartoonist/Illustrator will be sole owner of the cartoon(s) and will have full power to convey to [name of company] the rights conveyed hereby.

Cartoonist/Illustrator acknowledges that he is an independent contractor and not an employee, agent or representative of [name of company], and that he has no authority to make any commitments whatsoever in the name or on the behalf of [name of company] without express prior written authorization from [name of company].

Cartoonist/Illustrator agrees to indemnify and hold harmless [name of company] from and against any claims, losses, damages or expenses suffered or incurred as a result of any breach of the warranties provided above.

----------------------------

So, if corporate clients see the writing on an invoice as a chance to indemnify themselves, etc., then I would guess that this helps my case for any verbiage on an invoice as legally binding.

Man oh man.

I remember the good ol' days when I just drew cartoons. Now I'm writing about "legally binding" and "breach of warranties." Arrgh!

Gerry said...

After all the warnings for years now about the evils of WFH contracts, and especially with the info available on the internet, there's really no excuse anymore for any artist to claim ignorance when asked to sign a WFH contract.

I read the exchange and I have to say the guy involved seems deliberately obtuse about the issues involved. Unfortunately this is an old story, he was so in love with the idea of getting published (how he wants to put his own comic in "the long box" (whatever that is) with his Batman comics) that he signed the contract but either didn't read it, or preferred to believe that what was said verbally took precedence over the legal document.

then he repeatedly attacks Xerxes, the only person who had the patience and objectivity to set him straight. there doesn't appear to be a functioning brain behind his actions, just high strung emotions.

If, as he says, he doesn't ever want to create anything else, that this comic was his one story and his one chance of having his work published, then he'll hopefully find some gainful employment and we won't have to listen to his whining again.

Gerry said...

After all the warnings for years now about the evils of WFH contracts, and especially with the info available on the internet, there's really no excuse anymore for any artist to claim ignorance when asked to sign a WFH contract.

I read the exchange and I have to say the guy involved seems deliberately obtuse about the issues involved. Unfortunately this is an old story, he was so in love with the idea of getting published (how he wants to put his own comic in "the long box" (whatever that is) with his Batman comics) that he signed the contract but either didn't read it, or preferred to believe that what was said verbally took precedence over the legal document.

then he repeatedly attacks Xerxes, the only person who had the patience and objectivity to set him straight. there doesn't appear to be a functioning brain behind his actions, just high strung emotions.

If, as he says, he doesn't ever want to create anything else, that this comic was his one story and his one chance of having his work published, then he'll hopefully find some gainful employment and we won't have to listen to his whining again.

henrik said...

I've signed a good deal of Work-For-Hire contracts over the years when I worked on existing characters. If you want that kind of work it seems unavoidable. Should one ever consider signing a WFH on an original idea or character, one should at least keep Michael Caine's wise words in mind: If you're going to be a whore, charge a LOT!

Henrik Rehr

(P.S. Mike, I see that you've moved north. They must cry in Brooklyn. Good luck up there. Hopefully we'll still see you down in the city on occasion.)

Mike Lynch said...

Great Caine quote, Henrik! And thanks as ever for the kind words. See you at the OSU Festival or the Reubens or the next MoCCA Fest!