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.

Covers to Color: An Introduction

Front Cover

Front Cover

Covers?  Coloring?

Putting them together for book promotion?

A super idea hatched by my author friend and former PR guru KaLyn Cooper.  We Liquid Silver Books’ authors wanted a joint promotion for this year’s Lori Foster’s Reader Author Get Together which would surpass the Charming Author Hunt we did in 2015.

KaLyn suggested a coloring book featuring one cover from each of the attending LSB authors.  Colorful Liquid Silver Authors! What a great idea! All of us jumped on board immediately.  For those who are lucky enough to be attending Lori’s RAGT this year, I’ve seen a draft of the finished product and you are in for a treat (and some other fun with the coloring books besides coloring).

Then … I was thinking … as I often do. 🙂 Why not do a small coloring book of my own with just a few of my covers? Use it as a free promo at book signings and as a give-away during FaceBook promotions. See the fabulous front and back cover April created for my special coloring book above and to the left and at the end of this blog post.

Since the majority of my covers have been designed by the talented April Martinez (http://Graphicfantastic.com), I approached her about the concept and she was excited and immediately went about deciding how to get the best picture to color from the covers I suggested.  I am totally fascinated with how she did it and with the end result. She is the best.

Since there are legal/copyright implications in using cover art and differing approaches on how to create a coloring image from an existing artwork image, I asked April to join me on a series of blog posts about those very issues. She enthusiastically agreed (didn’t I say she was the best?). We hope you will enjoy seeing how we approached this project and benefit from our experiences.

Schedule of Up-Coming Covers to Color blog posts:

April 6th:  Copyright and Legal Issues in Converting Covers to Coloring Pages — Monette Michaels

April 13th:  Creating Illustrations — April Martinez

April 20th:  Laying Out Illustrations — April Martinez

April 27th:  Printing and Assembly:  Costs — Monette Michaels

 

Please join me next Wednesday for the legal issues in creating coloring pages from cover images.  Just a hint — there are copyright issues and most authors only have the right to use their book cover “as is” and for restricted uses.

Back Cover

Back Cover