Sunday, January 1, 2017

Freedom from "Free Art" -- Calculate Your Rate

Let 2017 be the year artists stop working for free. (graphic below by Michelle Leivan on cafe press)

It will take effort.. but it has to start somewhere. Let's start with credit.

Social Media thrives on the sharing of images. Most of those images are provided by artists. Artist-owned images get copied from one source and shared on another. But where is the attribution??? Why is it so hard to find the source of some of the most beloved viral images??

It's the result of the internet culture moving ahead of the old school 2D paradigm. Before the internet.. if you liked an image.. it was usually in a fixed form of a published work: a book or magazine, on a card or print or poster. All of those fixed forms of the expression of the creative work had attribution -- the credit for the artist or photographer in the margin --- a copyright notice with publication.

Establishing credit for images will require work from artists and fans.

For Artists -- it means embracing branding. Put your name loud and proud on your images. The internet isn't a canvas or a sketchbook. The internet is designed to erase credit. Artists need to take the steps that prevent that. Here are two:

1) register copyrights for all your images. You get the most protection when you register PRIOR to publication. There's some debate whether "publication" is in a fixed form, or the first appearance of an image on the internet. Get in the habit of registering  your copyrights in bundles, for a set time period (quarterly works for most artists), and within 3 mos. of the first time the images are made public. Better safe than sorry. Registering your copyrights for your work, within 3 mos of first publication, gives the most protection under current copyright laws. (PS -- the time and money you spend on copyright registration should be factored into your rate).

2) put a copyright notice [ (c) Your Name, date ] on all your images. You are the creator of this work. Fight anonymous art.

3) Know Your Day Rate -- Most artists today are independent. Help your art help you. Don't underestimate all the levels of work it takes you to produce art. Know your numbers -- the expenses you incur, as well as your time.

Don't work for free. Negotiate a rate -- even when it's reduced or a gift done for charity causes -- based on both you and the client knowing your day rate. When you work for free.. or for cheap.. you undermine the sustainability of art as a career.

Free art is an affront to everyone who values the work it takes to make art.

Here's a fantastic infographic designed by Rachel Frankel on running the numbers in this 12.16 blog post "Infographic: How To Calculate Your Hourly Rate" by Ryan Robinson on's blog:
Also this clip from indie artist/craftsman Dave on his You Tube channel "Make Something"

For Fans -- protect what you "like" online. Support it when and how you can.

1) Buy directly from creators. Shop at their online stores. If their art provides value for you, show your appreciation by buying directly from them.
2) support via sites like Patreon. If you enjoy frequent posts by an artist, and would buy them lunch or a coffee in person if you had the opportunity -- pledge or donate that amount. Small donations add up.
3) Be aware -- many artists LOSE sales to counterfeiters. Go to the source.

More on the problems of Art Theft and Counterfeit art in this frequently updated post:

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