This week I spent a lot of time learning. I learned about pressure tables and decompression sickness for my scuba diving class. I learned about the difficulties people face when they're bipolar through a book I'm reading for book group. And, I learned a lot about my rights as an artist.
Earlier in the week I got some very exciting news: a NYC gallery wanted to include some of my photos in an on-line exhibit. Sounds like time for a happy dance, right? Wrong! As is appropriate, the gallery sent me a contract to authorize them to include my photos in the exhibition. Unfortunately, the contract asked for the following rights to the artwork:
"The artist agrees to grant the Gallery a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sub-licensable license to exercise copyright, publicity, and database rights the Artist has in the information that the Artist has provided to the Gallery, in any media now known (or not currently known or later developed), including, without limitation, any images of the artworks submitted to ________."
Agreeing to this contract meant that I would be allowing the Gallery the right to sell images of my work to whatever commercial venture they'd like without any obligation of compensation to me. In addition, even if I found the use offensive, I would have no recourse whatsoever. That's what sub-licensable license means, coupled with an irrevocable, open-ended time frame. No exhibit is worth that.
No organization should present this type of contract as the start of a negotiation and/or the initiation of a relationship with an artist. Under no circumstances should any gallery be asking for such far-reaching control of an artist's work. Artists with far more experience than I cautioned me against signing the contract. This gallery is now on my "proceed with caution" list.
It's always our obligation to strike out any objectionable sections, date the changes, and send it back. Clearly, no one is going to look out for us but ourselves. So, I decided to tell the gallery that the contract language was ambiguous, that I had attached an amended contract, and I hoped they would sign it and send it back to me. I figured that I had nothing to lose.
Not surprisingly, I haven't received any response from the Gallery.
I guess I'm not in the on-line exhibit.
I'm not feeling a great loss with this one. However, I will say that because of this experience, I now have a boilerplate one-page contract that I'm pretty comfortable with. So, all the nonsense leading up to this has left me in a good spot and I'm ready for the next time I might be asked.
Now, you might be asking why, if you're still reading through all this drivel, why there's a picture of a white rose at the top of the post. What in the world does a white rose have to do with contracts? As a matter of fact, nothing. I posted the picture of the white rose because my husband sent me a dozen roses yesterday. In the almost 20 years we've been married, this is the 5th time he's bought me flowers. Since it happens so infrequently, I took a picture. I figured that it was worth some heralding, don't you think?