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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Selling: another interesting case

This is now my third post about seen-by. As I mentioned before, it's a nice concept. Not a single picture on this website is published without the approval of the editors. I see two main advantages here: Firstly, you don't need to click yourself through tons of not-so-good pictures until you find something that pleases your eyes. Secondly, other websites give the selection process into the hands of the users and let them vote for each others work. This can lead to funny behavior among users ranging from chumming up to hating each other because of their actions.
So all this you simply don't have on seen-by, which makes it quite bearable. Now let's get to the point.
It turns out that seen-by folks not only happily present people's work on their website, but also select pictures that would sell well as prints. I received an email telling that some of my pictures got selected by the seen-by staff and asking for my agreement to start a limited edition printed by a well-known fine-art printer/dealer.
I must say that the fact that they already carefully chose what they want, makes it again very appealing to me. On the other hand, I read their contract and find it quite strict. According to this, I would still be the owner of my work, however I would not have the right to print and distribute those selected pictures ever again somewhere else. In the contract this sounds like this (in German):

"...Die Vervielfaeltigungsstuecke der Werke werden in einer limitierten Auflage von 100 Stueck verkauft. Die limitierte Stueckzahl bezieht sich nicht nur auf die Vervielfaeltigung und den Verkauf des Werkes im Rahmen vonseen-by , sondern auch auf jede zukuenftige und in der Vergangenheit liegende Vervielfaeltigung - sei es zu privaten oder geschaeftlichen Zwecken ausserhalb desseen-by Marktplatzes...."

Money-wise the example calculation of my possible profit makes it really tempting. In the very-unlikely best-case sales scenario, an artist might actually be able to make a living from this. So I don't really know how to deal with it.
I have this inhibition threshold that keeps me from putting my signature under something that declares a limitation of my freedom on my own work, but in this case it looks like a great step forward for someone unknown who is still new to all this.
I think I might try this...anybody has ideas, advices, objections?


Francesco said...

Hi Oli

In my point of view this deal does not sound good.. it is like you almost have to delete the picture after it has been printed and sold.
Since you already got attention from other sides, I would personally advice you to skip the seen-by contract and still be free to do whatever you want with this pictures - since you are not an artist who HAS TO make a living from your art.
Did you have to sign an equally strict contract for the other limited print as well (your post of August 26)?

Cheers from Zurich,

Oliver said...

Good question. No. With the other company I negotiated over the contract and let them change certain points regarding the copyrights. In that case I only loose the right of printing in that certain size, technique and paper.
Seen-by seems much more determined about how things have to work, so I don't think I can make them change anything.
Considering that I really don't have much experience with this business yet (and after sleeeping over it), I might actually give seen-by two images just to see how it goes.

Sarah said...

My previous position dealt with contracts. Lots of contracts. It will all come down this:

It depends on how you view the situation. If you view it as a business transaction, or as an artist permanently losing his craft. The best artists, I think, have a combination of both.

I would pick a few pictures you can stand to live without and let them have them. You'll figure out which side of the coin you flip to soon enough.

And if you need help with contracts (in English, of course) - hit me up.

Oliver said...

Thanks Sarah, I'm sure I can use your help at some point..

Alex said...

I´m a seen.by user and will be a seller in late september. I checked the contract with a lawyer, a friend of mine and he sees no problems with the contract considering the side of the laws. Seen.by pays good money from my point of view, has a good marketing campaign along with Spiegel online and will show some pictures in showrooms in Cologne, Hamburg, Düsseldorf and Frankfurt. I see this as a big advantage considering other companies. You have marketing power, showrooms and the artworks are very selected! This will show the customer the class of your works.
I can´t hide the feeling you have to loose your work. On the other hand would the picture be stored in your pc forever and nobody will see and buy your art. Unless you have another partner with a better contract. To be honest, you need to be very good and popular to get a contract with your wishes all fullfilled.
May this will help to consider seen.by as a future partner - see you there
greetings alex

Oliver said...

I was told by seen.by that you're actually NOT losing your work. you don't have it written in the contract, but I was told seen.by thinks it's understood that you can keep printing your work as long as the sizes differ by at least 20% from the size of their limited edition. So that would be a good thing.

Alex said...

If you have this written down it would be a good point to choose see.by. Do you have the point with the 20% in the contract?

Oliver said...

Unfortunately not. They say it's not in the contract because they think it's common sense. For example: If you start a limited edition of a picture that you already printed, one way to handle it is to make sure that the size of your limited edition differs by that 20% from the stuff you already printed.

After I asked for it several times, I kind of got it in writing in an email. It still doesn't explicitly say: "you have the right...", but it might be enough to refer to.

Alex said...

Unfortunately this is "some kind of" german law... If you sell a picture printed, you can sell the limited amount only. Otherwise the customer has the right to get back the money paid, the loss of appreciation value (you sell art!) and in some cases (some courts decided so already)indemnity. Not to forget if you sell more then the limited amount of your pictures it´s deceit! This is for already sold prints also. So may you sold a picture already one time the limited amount you can offer is 49 instead of 50. And this must be written down in the contract - I think in the ccprint or the seen.by contract this point was listed. Keep that in mind. And the german law is the law used in this case because the jurisdiction is Frankfurt or Hamburg in your cases.

Oliver said...

Of course a customer should have the right to get his money back in cases where something is wrong with the edition. And I'm stressing "with the edition".
However, I'm kind of disagreeing with your definition, could you point out where German law is referring to this?
The reason why I was unhappy with the seen.by contract is because it sounded more strict than how it is usually done.
Below you see the 20% rule explained in the WhiteWall contract. I was told that layers at seen.by agree with this. I also noticed that photographers who sell limited editions on their own websites (I only know Americans who do that) follow this rule as well.
My CCPrint-contract allows me to print in other sizes as well. And actually, they are kind of doing it already, as they now started to print and sell postcards of pictures from which limited editions exist.

"Bei Limited Editions sichern Sie uns und den Endkunden jeweils getrennt zu, dass die angebotenen Editionen auf WhiteWall und auch außerhalb von WhiteWall in der angebotenen Größe nur insgesamt in der von Ihnen festgelegten und dem Endkunden angezeigten Stückzahl angeboten werden. Sie werden auf WhiteWall oder außerhalb von WhiteWall keine weiteren Größen anbieten, deren Fläche die der auf WhiteWall angebotenen Editionen um weniger als 20% übersteigt oder unterschreitet. Dementsprechend werden Sie eine Datei auch nur einmal in WhiteWall einstellen; dies gilt auch für leichte, verwechselungsfähige Variationen oder Modifikationen der Datei oder des Motivs. Sollten Sie gegen die vorgenannten Regelungen verstoßen, sind wir berechtigt, allen betroffenen Kunden ein Rücknahmeangebot zu unterbreiten. Den daraus uns entstehenden Schaden haben Sie uns zu ersetzen."

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