Reprographic rights are held individually by each artist but are licensed collectively by a collecting society that artists have mandated to administer these rights. Regrettably, there has not been a U.S. collecting society to represent American illustrators, and illustrators do not receive any compensation for the exploitation of their reprographic rights.
Worldwide, the visual artists' share of reprographic collections averages 15% of total collections. This is expected to increase dramatically with the growing digital republication of published material. Germany is reporting 40% of collections attributable to visual art when digital licensing is available.
Status of Domestic Royalties due Visual Artists
In the U.S., total collections of reprographic licensing by the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) exceed 130 million dollars annually. CCC distributes some of this money to writers, but they don’t return any to visual artists.
Status of Overseas Royalties due Visual Artists
Foreign countries do collect royalties for American illustrators, but they can't pay it to American illustrators because there's no properly chartered Reprographic Rights Organization in the U.S. to track usage and distribute the money properly. Some money has been returned to the US since at least 1995, but it is going unaccounted for. American fine artists’ overseas reprographic rights have been protected; fine artists are paid their foreign-earned reprographic royalties through an appropriately chartered organization: The Artists' Rights Society (ARS).
An American Illustrators' Collecting Society
Illustrators were advised to claim their own reprographic royalties at the first Illustrators Conference in 1999. The advice came from intellectual property expert Bruce Lehman, former Director of U.S. Patents & Trademarks and principal author of both the 1976 Copyright Act and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Lehman endorsed the conference founders’ proposal for a visual arts collecting society and he compared the digital revolution in visual arts licensing to that of songwriters at the dawn of radio age. Just as songwriters had united to form the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) to protect their rights collectively, Lehman advised illustrators to do the same. At the invitation of conference founders Lehman then agreed to become a Founding Board member of the Illustrators' Partnership of America (IPA).
In 2001 the Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) joined with IPA to form the Illustrators' Partnership Reprographics Coalition. From 2001 to 2007 the Coalition grew to twelve illustration associations, uniting the relevant rightsholder class of the American illustration repertoire of published works. The combined members include the most prolific and widely published illustrators and cartoonists in the world. Their pictures illustrate a wide spectrum of general and special interest publications. The majority are independent contractors and have reserved reproduction rights on a substantial body of their published work. All of the associations admit members that are working illustrators who pass portfolio reviews to professional standards.
In October 2007 the Coalition formalized as a new non-profit corporation, the American Society of Illustrators Partnership (ASIP). The ASIP now numbers 13 Associations with over 4,500 members. Each association appoints a member to serve on the ASIP Board. There is also one board seat for “At-Large” illustrators who are not members of any of the member organizations. The ASIP Board, Legal Advisors, Charter and Bylaws are available at http://asip-repro.org
Establishing the Claim
ASIP is now establishing the proper claim on illustrators’ reprographic royalties. To proceed, we need to obtain a sufficient mandate from a critical number of working illustrators. This establishes a chain of rights demonstrating that each artist owns the rights to his or her work and that these members authorize ASIP to collect reprographic royalties on their behalf.
By giving ASIP this mandate you are not transferring copyrights or any other rights. The mandate authorizes ASIP to act as your representative for the purpose of attempting to collect reprographic royalties on your behalf. This will not affect the way that you currently license your work. There is no fee. You can retrieve your reprographic rights at any time, for any reason, with a 120 day written notice to ASIP. Detailed FAQs can be accessed at http://www.asip-repro.org/faq.html and the ASIP Reprographic Rights Authorization Agreement can be downloaded at http://www.asip-repro.org/join.html
We want to be sure that all members with published work in print will have the opportunity to participate in the royalty revenue stream if ASIP is successful in making the claim.
A collecting society for American illustrators is new territory for illustrators. This unity among disparate niches of illustrators is unprecedented, and the assembly of the Board has been delightful and inspiring. If you haven’t yet been aware of this effort it is a lot of information to digest. To put it in perspective it is helpful to remember these things:
- Reprographic royalties are not going to artists now.
- They will not go to artists unless someone creates an administrative system to collect and distribute the money.
- Reprographic royalties are currently small, but could be increased by instituting a rights administration to track usage.
- This in turn would serve to license and collect work more efficiently.
- Publishers have had 20 years to invite artists to participate in the distribution of these fees. They haven’t done so.
- In the absence of a collecting society, others have been taking the money and using it without accountability.
- Unless artists take the initiative to act on their own, it’s clear that no one else will.
- If you join and ASIP succeeds, you may see an additional source of income, as well as a more effective way of protecting your rights collectively,
- If you join and ASIP fails, you haven’t lost anything you already have.
In these challenging times when copyright and authors rights are under constant pressure and assault, and so much can seem unsurmountable, we should reflect on our successes. Illustrators have demonstrated a will and an aptitude to effectively advocate for our rights at the highest levels. We are visiting Capitol Hill, testifying before the House and Senate intellectual property committees, writing, calling and visiting our Senators and Representatives to defeat orphan works legislation that would eliminate exclusive rights. We have distinguished ourselves by acting individually with collective strategies, organization and execution.
If we continue to pull together, professional illustrators can create and administer their collecting society. The future possibilities of that society are boundless. Like Victor Hugo* before us, seeds planted with passion can flower in ways not fully imagined.
On behalf of all published American illustrators –* The Berne Convention for the Protection of Artistic and Literary Works was developed at the instigation of Victor Hugo as the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale.
Cynthia Turner and Brad Holland, Co-Chairs, ASIP
Terry Brown, Executive Director, ASIP
Bruce Lehman, Legal Advisor and inspiration, ASIP
Ken Dubrowski, Director of Operations, IPA
and our distinguished Board of Directors of the
American Society of Illustrators Partnership
Please visit the ASIP website: http://asip-repro.org
The ASIP Resources and Library has useful downloads for further reading, and a webcast presentation. The FAQs are a fast way to absorb the history and purpose of ASIP.
For detailed reprographic rights information please see the comprehensive article about the state of illustrators’ rights, “First Things About Secondary Rights,” by Brad Holland, Columbia Journal of Law & The Arts, Volume 29, No. 3, Spring 2006, http://illustratorspartnership.org/downloads/Holland_ColumbiaLawJournal.pdf