Covers to Color: Legal Stuff

MM_CoversToColor_page01Last Wednesday, I told you a bit about how the coloring book of covers project began and introduced my cover artist April Martinez of Graphicfantastic.  This week, I will go into the legal aspects of converting an already existing piece of graphic art into a coloring page.

Yes, this is a great idea for promo, BUT BE AWARE: There are copyright issues that must be addressed if you as author are not the copyright holder of your cover art – and I would venture to guess, most of you are not. Just as an author has all sorts of rights under copyright law for their written words, visual artists have similar rights in their creations.

Now I had an easy time with the legal issues since my cover art was created by the graphic artist I approached to create the coloring page illustrations.  April is the sole copyright holder of my covers.  Thus, our agreement to create the coloring book included hiring her to alter her original artwork to make coloring pages (a new form of artwork) and to do the layout with front and back covers. This process protected her rights of reproduction in her original art work.

The main copyright issue in converting your cover art to a coloring page illustration centers on whether you, or your publisher, merely licensed the right to use the cover to promote your book OR whether the work was “for hire.”

Just a note, most of the e-publishers I have worked with merely have licenses to use the artwork created for their authors’ covers.  It is much less expensive for the publisher (thus lower outlay of capital up front) to license the rights for the life of the publishing contract.  I would also suspect that most self-published authors merely have licenses to use also.

Basic rule of thumb for cover art:

Licensed cover art work – the artist is both the creator and the copyright holder for the original cover art and/or design (some cover art contains other licensed elements such as photos which the cover artist manipulates with permission of the licensing agreement for the photos). The author or publisher requesting/contracting for the cover art will have paid a licensing fee and have restricted usage of the cover art.

“For Hire” cover art work – the artist is the creator, but the author or publisher (contractor) requesting/contracting for the cover art owns all rights and holds the complete copyright in the cover art.  The contractor will have paid for all those rights. At that point, the contractor may reproduce, alter, manipulate, sell, etc the cover art as they wish.

A word about cover art licensing agreements — The terms of the licensing agreement (contract) should spell out the length of the contract and any restrictions on usage of the cover art.  Most licensing agreements between graphic artists and publishers set the term of the agreement for as long as the book is published with that specific publisher and restricts the usage of the cover to promotional and marketing uses only. As many authors whose publishers have shut their doors have found out- – if they loved their covers, they must renegotiate the license to use the covers if they wish to keep using them on a re-publication of the book.

Authors’ rights in a cover — What you, as an author, DO own from the cover art is your name and your brand. This ownership right is recognized under the Lanham Act and has more to do with common law trademark about protection of reputation than copyright. Your book title is not copyrightable by you or the artist.

Visual/Graphic Artists’ reproduction rights — An artist who creates an original piece of art, be it an oil painting, a photograph, cover art, or whatever, may sell the “original” work, but still owns all the other rights to reproduce it. A person buying original art does not have the right to reproduce the art work in any way, shape, or form, or they would violate the artist’s right of reproduction.

Rights of reproduction in visual art include such processes as making print plates from an original piece of art and then issuing prints, and in this particular example, changing/altering the original cover art into an illustration to be colored.

By the way, a print and a coloring page would be considered new pieces of art since there is actual creative activity in etching the plates and creating an illustration.  Thus, if an artist doesn’t claim ALL RIGHTS RESERVED in their original art work, they could lose out if a person who bought the original work decided to make a print.  Most artists understand this — and the language, All Rights Reserved,  is usually found with most art work and sales of such art work. Note: Under U.S. law it is understood all rights are reserved unless otherwise said, the specific language is more crucial for international law. I would still urge all artists (and authors, too) to use the specific terminology in relation to their work, just to be cover all bases in protecting all their rights.

Bottom-line:

If the cover artist has merely licensed the cover art to an author or publisher and holds the copyright, all rights reserved, then only the cover artist has the right to make the coloring page OR give permission for such a coloring page to be made.

Therefore — if your cover art was not made under a “for hire” contract, then you had better seek out your cover artist and get permission to use the covers before you create coloring pages or a coloring book from the cover art.

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Next blog in the Covers to Color series will be by guest blogger April Martinez of Graphicfantastic.com and she will share her technique for making a cover into a coloring page.

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~ by Monette Michaels on April 6, 2016.

 
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