Fair Trade means Fair Trade
Artists of all disciplines are the foundation of the creative economy and, as such, one of our key goals is to bring enlightenment to this fact. The untold story is that artists’ unpaid and underpaid labor are what support the creative economy and allow it to grow.
What is Fair Trade?
The majority of the studies of the creative economy don’t take artists’ poorly paid labor into account. Nor do they take into account exploitive hiring practices that deny artists fair compensation or the right to control their intellectual property.
MALC is working to address this oversight in several ways
1. Unfair Labor Practices
Seldom do visual artists earn money exhibiting soley in non-profit spaces. If there is a stipend offered by a non-profit space or museum, it rarely covers the costs incurred by the artist to fabricate or even frame their work. The same holds true for performing artists and poets. MALC feels this practice needs to be addressed to make it more fair for our artists of all disciplines.
Many non-profits are now using “work for hire” contracts in which the artists lose all rights to their intellectual property, including the copyright to their work. The fees paid the artist in no way represent a complete copyright buyout fee, and selling one’s copyrights is not advised. MALC believes no cultural non-profit should force artists to surrender intellectual property.
2. Art Auctions
Charity art auctions are of particular concern. Visual artists are always asked to donate work to various causes and institutions. Yet they cannot deduct the fair market value of the work on their taxes. Artists can only deduct the materials costs of producing the work.
MALC is offering some standards for auctions and donations of artwork by visual artists:
1) Any organization that sponsors charity auctions or solicits donations of art from artists should endorse and advocate to pass legislation that will change the state and federal laws to allow artists to deduct the fair market value of the artwork they donate.
2) If the art work is to be auctioned, the artist can set the lowest bid allowed on their work at the auction. If the work is being made specifically for the event (i.e., artists are invited to all make chairs, plates), there needs to be a standard minimum bid set before the event.
3) The artist shall be offered a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of their art work. We recommended 50% but no less than 25%, with the option that the artist may donate their work/proceeds outright to auction/institution.
4) If the auction/event is a fund raiser via ticket sales, the artists shall be allowed to attend the event free of charge, or at a greatly reduced price (1/3 of the ticket price or more).
5) Artists shall be given the contact information of the person(s) who purchased their art work at the auction/event and the entity conducting the auction shall clearly inform the person who wins the art that the artist retains the copyright of their work.
6) Artists shall be paid their percentage of the sale as soon as possible after sale monies are collected (payout of the artist’s percentage should not take longer than 90 days, the same as legislated by the State’s Consignment of Fine Art Law).
7) There shall be a written, signed agreement between the artist and the entity conducting the auction that spells out the terms above (1-6) as well as other necessary procedures (drop off/pick up of work not sold, insurance policies, etc.).
3. Intellectual Property and the Internet
Since the dawn of the internet, intellectual property (IP) rights have suffered from inadequate safeguards and ineffective enforcement procedures to protect artists’ online work. Social media, also, compromised rights holders control of who and where their work is displayed and allowed selected third parties to legally publish and profit from the value of the work. The burden of enforcement and the proof-of-ownership is left entirely to the individual artist, and legislation to assist removal of infringed work is cumbersome and ineffective in deleting multiple instances of identical infringements on a single online platform.
In addition, registration of work with the Copyright Office is expensive for certain artistic disciplines, and although registered work is a great aid to collecting compensation and damages for infringement, the level of a potential award must reach a certain threshold to be reasonably considered for moving to trial.
Some other key practices that remain unanswered
- What is fair compensation for artists vis-a-vis non-profits and universities?
- How do we counter the practice of student labor and free labor being to undercut professional artists in all disciplines?
- Why are adjunct professors denied their intellectual property rights?
Stay tuned for more!