Thursday, October 04, 2007

Watch Out ... Visual Artists!

ALERT – VISUAL ARTISTS!

Library and Archives Canada is presently contacting a large number of visual artists with the goal of having them sign a contract in which they are asked to cede their copyright to the Canadian government in perpetuity.

The pretext for this is the supposed need, for a specific project, to provide Library and Archives Canada, free of charge, with the right to make certain works that are in their collections available to students, researchers and the general public. The letter asks these artists to sign the contract and to return it as soon as possible - for some, the deadline is October 8th.

WE DO NOT ADVISE YOU TO SIGN THIS CONTRACT, since it allows the federal government to strip you of what rightfully belongs to you.

In fact, by signing this contract, not only are you signing away your copyright ownership on these works to the Canadian government and even renouncing part of your moral rights, but you will receive no financial compensation.

In other words, by signing this contract, you would authorize the government to reproduce your works in any context they see fit, to exhibit them in public, or to present them on the Internet without paying you copyright royalties. In addition, by renouncing part of your moral rights, as is being requested, you would expose yourself to the possibility of seeing your works modified, distorted or mutilated, depending on the whim of a graphic designer employed by the federal government or a communications agency under contract with the government.

Another atrocious aspect of the contract, as written, is that it would permit the government, which would become legal holder of part of your rights, to authorize educational institutions to present your works in a multitude of contexts. Here again, you would not receive one cent for the use of your work!

Library and Archives Canada: One example among many

In the professional visual arts field, there are predators that do not hesitate to appropriate copyright or neglect to respect it. The money made with your copyright, or the money saved at your expense, is the result of tampering with the financial royalties that should go, by right, to creators.

These predators may be government agencies, as is the case with Library and Archives Canada, or public or private presenters, corporate purchasers, or dishonest agents. They may appeal to your generosity, or to your sense of civic duty, or they may threaten you with the loss of an exhibition or a sale.

The myth of “exposure” as justification

One of the main justifications invoked by copyright predators in making this kind of request is to claim that in exchange for your copyrights, they will distribute your works widely and that you will have more exposure, which is good for your career. Artists often sign contracts that are disadvantageous to them in the hope of gaining more visibility. You should not have to pay this price for a future career and it does nothing but harm the rights that should be respected for all artists in the visual arts community. We must act together to defend visual artists’ rights to obtain better socio-economic conditions and show solidarity in our field of practice by supporting the efforts made by our associations, CARFAC and RAAV.

The signature of such a contract negates the efforts made by CARFAC-RAAV and the copyright collectives to ensure that government agencies and public and private presenters respect artists’ copyright.

The benefits of collective copyright management

CARCC is a collective society for copyright management that was founded by CARFAC for the purpose, among others, of enabling visual artists to negotiate with presenters on your behalf. In Quebec, RAAV has similarly formed a copyright collective, SODART, which works in tandem with CARCC.

Because CARCC and SODART are familiar with copyright and act on your behalf, you don’t have to negotiate for yourself the conditions under which you give permission for your works. These collectives represent a large number of artists, and as part of a collective you are able to benefit from equitable treatment. Isolated, you may be at the mercy of abusive practices, and by joining CARCC or SODART you can be sure that your copyright will be respected.

Presenters often first ask artists to either completely or partially waive their copyrights with no financial compensation. All too often, presenters strip artists of their rights with no benefit paid, by asking them to waive their exhibition and reproduction rights in their contracts. However, when a presenter deals with a collective society, permissions for presentation of the works are clearly given under conditions that are much more equitable for artists. In fact, rather than surrendering your rights, a collective society negotiates a user licence that it writes to be adapted to a specific project, under respectful conditions, and in return for payment of royalties.

Along with your art, your copyright is among your most valuable assets

Some of the best sources of income that visual artists have are the sale or rental of their works and their copyright, which, during their lifetime (and their estate, up to fifty years after their death), enables them to collect royalties for the presentation of their artworks. This is a not inconsiderable value, and that is why it is important to protect not only your works but the copyright that is attached to them.

Unless you are a copyright specialist, know the law, and are a very experienced negotiator, wheeling and dealing with your copyright exposes you to many risks, loss of income, and the anxiety and tension that often accompanies this type of transaction.

Entrusting management of your rights to a collective society is thus your best option, and CARCC and SODART were created to enable you to benefit from what, by all rights, is coming to you. CARCC and SODART can offer you the peace of mind that you need to pursue your creative work. Joining a collective also gives you a means of acting collectively against copyright predators. This is worth serious thought.

What to do with the Library and Archives Canada contract

If you have not yet joined CARCC or SODART, thereby allowing them the ability to handle this situation on your behalf, inform the person who sent you the letter and contract that you want more time to think about the agreement. Above all, it is important not to cede your rights without fair financial compensation. As for the moral rights that are attached to all of your works, it is important not to waive them, because you might see your work cropped, improperly manipulated, or used without your consent to convey messages that you may not agree with.

In solidarity,

Christian Bédard April Britski
Executive Director Executive Director
RAAV CARFAC

For more information, contact:

CARFAC: carfac@carfac.ca, toll-free: 1.866.344.6161

RAAV: christian.bedard@raav.org, 1.514.866.7101

CARCC: carcc@carcc.ca, toll-free: 1.866.502.2722

SODART: sodart@sodart.org, toll-free: 1.866.906.0230

1 Comments:

Blogger Beat Kids Gallery said...

This was very informative, thank you.

Glad to say I am associated with CARCC.

9:44 p.m.  

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