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Illustration copyright in a series?

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Hello- I'm a writer and self-publishing a book...specifically a series of picture books based on one character.  I know that typically the illustrator will retain the copyright to their illustrations.  My question is who would own the copyright to the main character? Or should this be spelled out in the contract? I would love to keep the same illustrator for all of the books, but what if something doesn't work out? I need to keep the copyright to the character so that I can continue the series based on this character. 

I want to be fair to the illustrator, and also protect myself.

Thanks!
#1 - January 20, 2022, 02:15 PM

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You can purchase the rights to the art. It will cost more to do so. I believe that allows you to commission a new artist with the same style to mimic your earlier books if needed.  This article might help: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/protecting-fictional-characters-under-copyright-law.html. And this one: https://www.janefriedman.com/are-fictional-characters-protected-under-copyright-law/. But I suspect you need to own the rights to the art as the text on the character will already be yours. You may wish to post in Ask a Lawyer with this question to get a legal opinion.
#2 - January 20, 2022, 06:20 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
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I am not a lawyer, but an editor--which gives me some experience to draw on to comment on this. And that experience tells me that as long as you craft your contract clearly, the illustrator will only have copyright in their illustrations. They will not acquire any rights to your character from having illustrated the character in one book, and you would be able to change illustrators. So you do not need to pay more to buy the copyright from the illustrator.

Of course, if the original illustrator holds copyright in the illustrations, a new one could not copy one of the illustrations in a new book, but that's a different issue.
#3 - January 23, 2022, 06:44 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

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