I have been approached by a person who wishes to one of my images on an album cover. Can you advise me on the copyright implications of such an exchange?
Unless you assigned your copyright to somebody else then you own the copyright. Assigning rights mean someone else becomes the owner of the copyright as well as the work. Visual Artists Ireland recommends that artists never assign their copyright to anybody. If you are the copyright owner then you have the right to use the work as you wish.
In this case, you should license your copyright to the person who wants to use your image on an album cover. Licensing means that another person can use the copyright material. There are a few ways of licensing copyright:
An exclusive license is a license, which is in writing and signed by you the copyright owner. Under an exclusive license, the licensee is the only person who can use the work in the way covered by the license. It is common in book publishing agreements, for example, for a writer to grant the publisher an exclusive license to print and publish the writer’s book. The writer is not then entitled to license another publisher to publish the same book during the period of the license.
Non-exclusive License: If you grant a non-exclusive license to do something with your work, you may continue to use your work in that way and you can also grant other people non-exclusive licenses to use your work in that way. You should negotiate and agree on the terms and conditions of the license. Discuss where the image will be used. Will it be used on the album cover exclusively or will it be used on flyers, brochures and websites for example. It is also important to state where the album will be distributed (locally or internationally) and the number of copies made. These are issues you need to discuss, agree on, put down in writing and have signed by both parties.
There are a few texts The Manual section of our website that you should find useful.
The first is entitled ‘Copyright and the Visual Artist’. Here solicitor Linda Scales presents an overview of copyright and how it works. She also advises artists on how to protect their copyright and what steps to take if copyright is infringed.
The second is ‘Contracts’. Here Linda Scales explains the legalities of contracts and how they work. She also provides sample contracts for use when undertaking a commission, exhibiting with a gallery or reproducing an artwork.