Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

A business model for an artist who does not use copyright

2011 . 09 . 28 - Comments / Commentaires (6)

- -—[version française]—- -

The number one complaint of artists who believe in copyright is that without it their work will be stolen and they will have a very hard time making a living. Disregarding for the moment the fact that it’s no walk in the park to make a living with copyright, let’s look at a business model that doesn’t involve copyright:

The artist begins her-his career in obscurity, honing a craft and making work that few people see. She-he is not making money from her-his work.

Slowly, the artist builds a following, showing more and more of the work publicly and beginning to make some money, either from selling work or from some other means related to the creative work she-he does.

One day, the following becomes a genuine fan base. At this point, whenever the artist wants to launch a project, she-he first turns to the fan base and asks for support. The fan base funds the project; the artist creates the work; the artist disseminates the work freely, without restrictions on use, commercial or otherwise.

The fan base that supported the project from the beginning still buys special edition versions of the media that’s being distributed freely because they love the artist that much. Additionally, more people become fans because the work is so accessible that it reaches many new audiences.

The artist continues crowd-sourcing the funding for her-his projects. She-he probably gets less exposure than artists who are promoted through the middle man of a media corporation (then again, only a very small percentage of creatives ever get the backing of those corporation and those who do are usually required to sign over the rights to the work to the corporations). That said, she-he is nurturing her-his relationship with the audience, building much stronger ties than are possible through a corporation.

The artist works in this way until she-he tires of the creative life.

Mimi and Eunice, You Can't Eat Prestige

Nina Paley’s Mimi And Eunice “You Can’t Eat Prestige”

This is not an easy way to make a living, but it’s not impossible. 

It’s essentially what I did and am still doing, and I suspect it’s a lot like the paths writer Cory Doctorow and artist-filmmaker Nina Paley are on. (Paley is actually doing a Kickstarter for a possible project right now.)

What’s more, though this business model involves a lot of hard work, it’s a whole lot easier than the other route, the one that embraces copyright. In going that way, an artist is gambling. The driving force in that career path is the fervent hope that one day the artist will make a work that everyone wants a piece of, a work that she-he can cash in big on with the help of licensing fees and copyright infringement lawsuits.

- TED’s copyright / Le copyright de TED
- Living artists giving to the public domain / Les artistes vivants qui donnent au domaine public
- Help us share your art

CATEGORIES: - English - TOP POSTS - Business of art - Featuring artists - Uncopyright -

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(6) Comments / Commentaires: A business model for an artist who does not use copyright

-- Sheila Cameron -- 2011 . 09 . 28 --

Thank you so much for this post. It is exactly what I need right now. I have lots of media experience but every time I bump into copyright issues with my art, I feel nervous, selfish, and definitely not creative. As I said to one friend, I’m thrilled to sell my work and have but in this economy, I’ll also work for compliments.

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-- Gwenn -- 2011 . 09 . 30 --

I think copyright tends to have a freezing effect on everyone—whether they’re into using it or not.  And I tend to think that’s a really bad sign for a piece of law that was instituted as a creative incentive!

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-- Chelsea -- 2013 . 01 . 14 --

Hello, Love this blog! Just read this and needed to read it also, Songbirds to my soul.  How would this same issue work with Poetry and pieces of writing?  I draw, but also have poetry and am wanting to put it out there.. Would it be just as effective to just begin putting the work out there and creating a name for myself that way.. let the copyright be that people recognize the Artist behind the work?

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-- Gwenn -- 2013 . 01 . 15 --

I believe so.  This business model is meant for all creatives!

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-- Cesare Catania -- 2018 . 06 . 14 --

Nice article there, even though it’s about a quite harsh argument

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-- Gwenn -- 2018 . 06 . 17 --

@Cesare: What is harsh about it?

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