So I’m at this restaurant…

…and the guy sitting the next table over finishes his dinner.  When the waiter brings him a check, the guy says “I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay for this until you give me the recipe for everything I ate.”

The waiter says, “I’m sorry, sir, but we can’t give out recipes.  A recipe belongs to the chef.  If I gave you the recipe, you could start your own restaurant and I’d be out of a job.”

And the guy replies, “Well, I won’t pay you for this dinner then.”

Yes, okay, this story didn’t really happen—at least not in a restaurant.  The true story: an illustrator buddy of mine finished up a project recently, submitted his bill, and the client told him they require that he sign a release form (giving them sole usage and exclusive rights, etc.)…before he can get paid!

According to copyright law, you own all rights to your images until they’re transferred to another party. In my opinion it’s unethical for a business to hold your payment hostage until you surrender sole ownership of your images after the job’s finished. Usage should be agreed upon before the job starts.

Here’s the good news: a brand-spankin’ new edition of the Graphic Artists’ Guild‘s Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (PEGs, as we professional artist-types call it) just hit the newsstands!  It is chock-full of information about how to negotiate usage of your art, what other artists are charging—it even has legal forms in the back, like sample contracts.  You get all this for the footling price of $40.00.  It’s money you’ll wish you’d spent years ago.

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