"Sanders, I just sold your soul. You weren't using it were you?"
I get email. Some of them ask for cartoons. Like this one:
I wish to add your cartoon to a Powerpoint presentation.
OK. I write back:
Hey, that's great that you would like to use my cartoon. My fee is $20 per image, per presentation. I accept Paypal and credit cards.
Oops. That's not at all what this person had in mind:
Unfortunately I shall not use your cartoon if it means paying for it. I thought I would just try and do things by the copyright book. Thanks anyway.
And I respond:
No hard feelings. I'm sure neither one of us can afford to give away his/her professional work.
A friend -- a fellow cartoonist friend -- quipped, Yeah, they wanted to ask you for it before they stole it.
Is taking a cartoon stealing?
Yes. A cartoon has value. A cartoon is called "intellectual property."
Composer Tom Green, writing for First Drafts - The Prospect Magazine Blog, writes about the "Music industry in crisis: you gets what you pays for:"
Fans at my gigs offer home-copied CDRs of my albums for me to sign, not real ones, and think nothing of it. MySpace “friends” send me emails praising my music to the skies, and then say that they’ve sent multiple copies of it to all their friends, and then they expect me to thank them for this unsolicited “promotional activity.”People who like Tom's music are just not that into his wallet concerns.
I was just reading this morning about how so many of those free alt-weekly papers are scrubbing ALL of their comics. At the City Paper, they got rid all of them except one: a cartoon titled Dirtfarm by Ben Claassen. How did it escape the fate of the others?
Dirtfarm survives because Claassen said he’d do it for nothing. “City Paper feels like family to me,” Claassen explains. “I called the publisher and told her that I would rather have it run for free than to not have it run at all.”Well, it's sweet to have those feelings for a business --but family should not let you starve, Ben.
When fans who like your work, and the companies that buy your work, all ask you to work for free. What do you do?
For more and more people-- it means you produce the work for free, in your spare time. You can no longer afford to do it full-time.
When I get an email telling me "I shall not use your cartoon if it means paying for it," I remind myself that I'm fortunate that, for now, I have corporate clients who do pay. I'm also fortunate that I do not have children, a big house, 2 cars or outstanding medical bills (for now).
My plan: I will continue to persist in finding new markets, and proactively getting my work out there (and not doing business with people who want me to work for exposure).
Consumers will continue to have art and music to consume, but more and more, it will be produced part-time; by people with day jobs.
NOTE: As of this time, the Prospect blog is down. I've sent am email to a Prospect Magazine editor about it. Hopefully, it's getting fixed.
Related: NYCC 2009: Intellectual Property Primer by Dennis McCunney. (Hat tip to Journalista!)
Also related: If you Give Away Your Cartoons for Free, You Won't Make a Living as a Cartoonist.