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cutiepi92's avatar

How to solve this art commission issue?

Asked by cutiepi92 (2252points) March 14th, 2015

I’m a graphic designer, and sometimes I do private commissions for people on the side. For logos and other designs that a client plans to reprint, I charge upwards of $250—$300. For small things that are just for the client, the price usually hovers around just $100.

Here is my problem.

I was contacted by someone I know for a private commission. At no point when we were discussing the project did he mention anything about reprinting or selling. He is trying to make an independent movie and he said he just wanted to have some artwork of his characters. So I charged him the smaller fee. He paid me $50 and is to give me $50 when I’m done. I sent him a progress update about a week ago and found out yesterday that he posted it on his facebook. He tagged me in it and then stated something in the post about how he plans to sell them as posters to raise money for producing the film. However, this was never mentioned to me until now and I don’t know what to do…..

Normally I make just my bigger clients sign an agreement, and this is the first issue I’ve had with a smaller private commission being replicated without my permission. I’m not sure how to handle it. Especially since a lot of people are really liking just the progress picture alone and are already promising money for it when it isn’t even his artwork to sell as a print. I make my pictures for my client’s private use only, not to sell copies. Does anyone have any suggestions?? Or is there nothing I can do but continue with our initial agreement?

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8 Answers

kevbo's avatar

You need to watch this.

CWOTUS's avatar

First, I would take it as a lesson learned. Don’t be vindictive or legalistic – yet – and don’t hold a grudge. If your client is a philistine, well, it’s a client that you accepted as a philistine – or with no investigation on your part – so you have to share some of the responsibility for what was done in apparent ignorance of cultural norms.

But do speak to the person and explain how the commission payment scales work and why you have separate payment levels (and incidentally, consider whether you should maintain such an arrangement; is you work for friends really “less valuable” than the work you do for more businesslike clients?), then sit back and let the person decide what should be done.

A properly respectful “client”, regardless of friendship status, will attempt to make this right with you. Let him or her make the first offer of reconciliation, payment and terms.

But definitely learn the lesson. If you have strictures on your clients’ use of your work, you should make sure that they understand them at the time the commission is undertaken and agreed-to.

Buttonstc's avatar

Wasn’t it your responsibility to explain all of this to him BEFORE any agreement was made regarding fees?

It seems as if you’re blaming him for it. Besides, he did not try to pass this off as his original work since he credited you.

I suppose you can try to change the fee structure after the fact, but you might want to think about how this will effect the friendship. Is it worth it? If so, then do what you want but don’t be surprised if it leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

Darth_Algar's avatar

If he’s commissioning the work for a commercial project it stands to reason that at some point he may try to resell the artwork. You should have explained your normal fee structure and came to an agreement before hand. Take this as a lesson or consider it a one-time favor to a friend.

Silence04's avatar

In the US, even if there was no contract, you would still retain the copyright to the art you created. Therefore you would have to grant him permission to legally reproduce it.

However, there is nothing stopping him from reproducing it unless you send a cease and desist or further legal action. And based on your pricing, I’d say that’s out the window.

I agree with others that you should take this as a learning experience. For smaller/quick jobs that don’t need a signed agreement, I’d suggest putting the rights you are granting them directly on the invoice and/or estimate.

Darth_Algar's avatar

“In the US, even if there was no contract, you would still retain the copyright to the art you created. Therefore you would have to grant him permission to legally reproduce it.’

Not necessarily. Commissioned works (works for hire) are generally the copyright of the commissioning party.

Silence04's avatar

Commissioned work doesn’t automatically mean “work for hire,” there would need to be an agreement in place that states that. When there is nothing in writing, no rights are transferred.

Darth_Algar's avatar

I did not say that it did. I am neither certain that this case would or wouldn’t be. I’d rather suggest the OP, if so inclined, speak to an attorney about it rather than taking the legal expertise of some random stranger (including myself) on Fluther as gospel.

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