The Value of Owning Your Creations

Spurred on by my recent posts criticizing Cuppa Coffee’s Zootube contest (here and here), animation artist Keith Lango has written some general thoughts about understanding the value of your creative properties. Using his own experiences as an example, Lango stresses one key point—”don’t ever, ever, ever give away rights to your work blindly, without condition and without real value in return. Rights have great value.”

In his post, Keith also uses the boys at JibJab as examples of artists who understand and practice good business. I love how JibJab’s Evan Spiridellis responds in the comments section that they’re not really doing anything revolutionary; in fact, Evan writes, “The case for retaining your rights goes straight back to Walt. If people are unaware of the Oswald fiasco they should read their animation history.”


  • http://pyatyletka.blogspot.com nick cross

    YES!! Never give your work away! It’s very easy when you’re starting out to downgrade the value of your work and trade it for some sort of nebulous “exposure”. That is a total ruse that business people use to acquire films and work from artists without having to give anything in return. The Internet gives people all the exposure you would ever need. Anyone with a computer can make a DVD and sell it off of their website or blog. Cartoon Network and other broadcasters are always looking for new ideas, you don’t need a middleman. Do it yourself! You’ll learn a ton, and since when has learning been a bad thing?

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  • Andy

    This is a great website that is all about protecting the rights of artists:
    http://illustratorspartnership.org
    It’s mainly geared towards illustrators, but it has some great articles by Brad Holland, who actually helped start this site, who is very much in favor of artists keeping their rights to their work.

  • http://www.mowillems.com Mo Willems

    I’ve found that the newer the medium, the worse the deal.

    I’ve not done web work but in my experience:

    Cable animation= rip off deals, living wages, no control.

    PBS= nice wages, residuals, no control.

    books=excellent royalties, total control, respect.

    I suspect cave painting is the best business to be in.

  • Murray Bain

    —-Why do I hear “have a cigar” playing in my head?
    On the devil’s advocate side; show ideas are pretty easily thought up, and have ALL been done before. It’s about execution, isn’t it? A Bugs Bunny short directed by a hack is still a bad cartoon.
    With studios starting their own online channels without deep investment pockets, we will see a lot of offers like this in the future.

    You’ve probably heard “sell your donald duck, keep your mickey mouse.” Never give up personal projects to deals like this.

    Great article on character rights by Gene Deitch

    Too bad you can’t get honey coated deals like that last one anymore. You’d have to be a cartoon bigshot “name” or a heck of a saleman. Definetely something to shoot for, though!

  • http://www.fatkatanimation.com Gene Fowler

    Like everything in life, balance is the key.

    What if you have a short animated piece but are working 80 hours a week at kinko’s to support your animation habit and can’t seem to garner any interest on the net by yourself. Or have the lack of skills in website creation or just good old fashion gumpsh’n in marketing.

    Like many animators I know, some have no interest in negotiating deals, talking about rights or harnessing a compromise in business with a partner, studio or exec’. Hell, most artists I know don’t even like talking about money. They just wanna draw pretty pictures.

    But there certainly is a business side to this industy, and like others it’s not for the faint of heart. Yes of course cutting out the middle man and trying to sell your shit seems like an easy way to go. And for some artists who can actually talk the talk and walk the walk, good on ya – do it! – But those that can do this, usually have taken them some years and tough lessons to achieve.

    Selling your ideas, shorts or TV series concepts is not an easy business. It takes as much time honing techniques in sales and marketing as it does in animation production. Surely a good idea will sell itself right? – yeah probably, but man how many times did you have to take that idea and tweak it after countless meetings with networks or distributors. Do you have that kind of time to aquire those skills and spend dollars on flights to meetings, festivals and conferences? – for those already established in the industry or even smart with there cashola, yeah probably. But for those perhaps more passionate about just “drawring” perhaps not, maybe instead it’d be easier to enter in a deal with someone who has a sales team or a distribution arm, someone that spends thousands of dollar bills going to festivals and conferences each year. Someone who knows all the big players by their taste of wine and choice of socks. Someone that has an emotional bond to the head cheeses.

    But don’t expect these folks to do it for free, if they’re going to spend REAL cashola on plane tickets, conference passes, display booths and the leased space to set them, not to mention DVD copies and paperback, paperback, paperback pitches. They’re going to want some sort of long term return for their short term expenses. The rights to your properties or percentage of, will help insure that their expenses are covered.

    Another reason why some studios and buyers want rights, is because some artists are just too damn difficult to deal with when changes are required to make a sale, or ignorant of the legalities of it all.

    I hear animation executives painted black all the time and sometimes I agree with it. But this is a business, you’re in business to make money to increase or stabilize your chosen quality of life. If you truly don’t care much for your ipod or those fancy new DC skate shoes you’re wearing, then get off the grid and move to a cabin in Northern Ontario and spend the rest of your days drawing pictures on birch bark. Otherwise get rolling on those skills or find someone to help, just don’t expect them to do it for nothing… …you wouldn’t.

    Much love and respect,
    gene

  • http://www.shamoozal.com Frank Summers

    great post gene. there really is a business side to the industry and i try to be more and more knowledgable about it. knowing how to skate with a pencil does indeed only get you so far. you’ve got to be able to sell not only your skills, but yourself as a commodity. i don’t think this includes selling your soul to the devil as i believe strongly in artist’s rights, but the game is played with give and take on both sides to make a project successful.

  • http://www.fatkatanimation.com Gene Fowler

    yeah Frank, I dig it. You don’t have to completley sell out. Hell I don’t. I retain at least 70% of every show that’s in development. But hell I’d sell off some of them down to 51% to get it on air. “Some of them!”

    Like Murdog said, “Sell your Donald’s and keep your Mickey’s”. Good way to look at it. All depends on whether rents being paid I guess.

  • http://none danielle brogan

    I have a cartoon idea. Would you know who I can tell it to?

  • Rashon

    Okay im nieve to this whole thing, and not sure on my plan of action. I am an illustrator that has a story fully fleshed out charater bios, back stories and finished designs, I have researched marchandising and character design down to color and concept in their design. How do I go about getting it produced? I know its not a 1 2 3 process but Im completely in the dark on the steps I should take. If anyone can offer some helpfull advice or would even be willing to kinda mentor me that would be great, but any suggestions would be nice.

  • http://www.MessedUpMen.com Kade

    Wonderful idea :)

    MessedUpMen.com