The copyright on my cartoon illustrations
I've been doing cartoon illustrations for over twenty years, and if you are wondering who owns the copyright, I do. There are only two exceptions.
First of all, when a client pays for an illustration, they are not purchasing the copyrights. They can, of course, copy the illustration freely because I, the copyright holder, have no intention of stopping them. If you are wondering how it is that I own the copyright, it is because the law gives me copyright the moment I complete the work. It would be best, if I wanted to sue anybody, to register it with the United States Library of Congress, and write a copyright declaration on it, but, hey, I'm not going to sue anybody. What this means to me is that I can use the cartoons that I create for my own purposes, that is, to promote my business. Theoretically, I could sell them again, but I don't. If a client sees one of my illustrations that I did for them on my website or anything that promotes me, they can't claim copyright infringement. If they want to (although I couldn't imagine in a million years why), they can negotiate to purchase copyrights, or a license, from me. And all that would do would keep me from using the illustrations to promote myself.
The two exceptions in my career are: the one (and only one) client who did make me sign a release of copyright (which I was happy to do) and illustrations that I did while working full-time for a company. Yes, I was the staff cartoonist for Bank One of Arizona. But, the bank has long since gone out of business, I can't imagine that they would ever had cared, and my client who owns copyright to a whole lot of my cartoon illustrations is gracious enough to let me use them for self-promotion.
There you have it. I have the words *Illustrator is entitled to use all illustrations for self-promotion purposes*, but it isn't really necessary. It's just good manners.
Posted by Brad Hall