17 September 2018 | 33 Comments
Stonemaier Games would not be where it is today were it not for the the artists who have brought out games to life.
Beth Sobel, Jacqui Davis, Jakub Rozalski, Mr Cuddington…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve contracted dozens of artists for illustrations and sculpts big and small, and I’m fortunate to have had great experiences with the vast majority of them.
On the heels of my recent legal-themed articles about third-party accessories and game designers, a few people have asked me about artist negotiations and contracts. So that’s today’s topic! I’ll talk a little bit about the process, and then I’ll dive deep into our standard artist contract.
Here’s a rough summary of how I execute the initial process/negotiations with artists:
- I discuss the project with the artist to gauge their interest and availability. I try to provide a rough estimate as to the scope of the work.
- I typically request one or two illustrations specific to the game, just to make sure we’re on the same page. I prepay for these samples, and there is no further commitment in place at this time.
- If we decide to proceed, I share the cost ranges I’m open to considering for each type of illustration, again emphasizing the number of illustrations. If you’re paying an artist for several months’ worth of work, that is often invaluable to them, as that’s easier for them than finding a new project every week.
- If we’re both ready to move forward, I put together the contract and send it to them to review.
As with our other contracts, I like to keep our artist agreement short, sweet, and written in plain language. My intent is to protect both parties and to make sure we’re on the same page. Below I’ve pasted our exact artist contract template with explanatory commentary by me in italics.
This Agreement is made as between Stonemaier LLC (“Stonemaier”) and X (“Artist”). It replaces any previous agreement by these parties.
- Grant of License
- Stonemaier is the owner of all rights to X (the “Product”), which includes all illustrations created specifically for the game. This is a sticking point for some artists, and I respect that. However, if I’m paying someone to create something, they are the creator of that thing, but I am the owner of it. If you pay someone to build your house, you own the house, right? I haven’t always had this phrase in our contracts, but in almost all instances where it’s missing, it’s caused quite a bit of frustration.
- License Grant. Beginning no earlier than the official announcement of the game, Stonemaier grants to the Artist the limited right of usage as it relates to the Product for self-promotion, personal display, and custom prints. Apart from these rights, this contract represents a general grant of use to Stonemaier. I am more than happy for our artists to showcase their art and even sell prints of it. The key point here is timing–we don’t want the game spoiled before we’ve announced it.
- The duration of use of the Product for Stonemaier is indefinite and extends across all forms of media (print and digital) and all geographic regions.
- Ownership and Validity. Licensee acknowledges that Stonemaier is the sole and exclusive owner of the entire right, title, and interest (including all accompanying goodwill) in and to the Products. Licensee agrees not to attack the validity of any of the Products at any time.
- Payment and expenses
- Invoices: Stonemaier agrees to pay all invoices related to finished work upon Artist’s request. This is basically saying to the artist, “Whenever you ask me to pay you, I’ll pay you right away.” I want our artists to know that we’ll pay them on their schedule, not on ours. Usually this means the artist weights until big batches of art are complete, but sometimes an artist needs part of the payment right away, and as long as it aligns with completed work, I’m happy to pay them immediately.
- Rate: Stonemaier will pay the Artist $X per standard illustration. Other illustration types are negotiable. A “standard illustration” can vary from project to project (usually it’s cards), so often this section can be longer. Occasionally we’ll offer an Artist a royalty, but our margins are already very tight, so that’s difficult.
- Revisions: Artist agrees to up to 2 stages of revision per illustration. Beyond that, Stonemaier is subject to additional fees. No additional fees shall be billed, however, for changes required to bring final artwork up to original specifications. Stonemaier may have other Artists perform the revisions if necessary. This section protects both parties. On my side, I want to ensure that every illustration is perfect, and sometimes that means multiple revisions. Also, if I ask an artist to illustrate a cat and they instead illustrate a dog, that’s on them to fix. On their side, I want to make sure they’re protected against the potential of an ongoing series of revisions.
- Art Book: Stonemaier will have the first right of refusal to publish an art book for the Product, paying a 10% royalty on revenue for the book to the Artist. It’s very rare that we would create an art book for a game, but it’s possible. Even though we have the rights to the art per this contract, I feel that it’s fair to compensate the artist above and beyond the initial payment if we create something like this that solely focuses on their art. I think it’s most likely that we would combine the work of several artists into one book.
- Derivative Works: Stonemaier will pay the Artist 5% of all revenue generated by non-board game uses of the art (movies, TV shows, etc.). This does not include digital ports of the board game. This is even more unlikely than the art book, but you never know.
- Artist will defend, indemnify, and hold Stonemaier harmless from and against all loss, liability, claims, suits, actions, proceedings, judgments, awards, damages and expenses (including attorneys’ fees) that they may incur by reason of the Artist’s process and completed works. Stonemaier holds the Artist in good faith that their illustrations are original and are consistent with copyright law.
- Governing Law. Any dispute arising under or in connection with this Agreement will be governed by the law of the State of Missouri and be resolved in the state or federal courts of Missouri.
Like all things I do, this is a work in progress. It’s evolved quite a bit over time. So if you have any thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear them in the comments.
- Kickstarter Lesson #3: Art and Graphic Design
- Kickstarter Lesson #158: Why I Prioritize Paying Freelancers
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