IVARO Column: Good Exposure?


The transition from studying in art college to working as a professional in the art world is always a difficult one. Sustaining an arts practice and making a living as an artist involves many challenges, both conceptual and practical, that aren’t given much attention across college curriculums. One of the most pressing things to learn is how to attribute monetary value to a newly created artwork. Despite all the ambition you may have as a young artist, the concept of actually making money from your work may, in reality, feel quite novel as a student or recent graduate. Exploring your creative interests and cementing your reputation in the art world will be something of a priority, especially if you are working in a medium that is not considered particularly commercial. Putting a price tag on your work can feel like a confusing and daunting task. In addition, it is important to be informed about your rights, when handling requests for your work to be reproduced in other formats (such as in publications) or arranging licensing agreements and fees for reproductions.

Since graduating from IADT with a BA in Visual Arts Practice, I have become more and more conscious of the lack of awareness on these issues among my peers. In one pertinent example from my own graduate show in 2011, artworks by several of my fellow classmates were reproduced online, in publications and even on album covers. For the most part, these reproductions were granted without any stipulations, payment or indeed any real knowledge of copyright or intellectual property. Instead, like most opportunities given to emerging artists, it was perceived as just another method of providing “good exposure”.

Since finishing my degree, I have worked with various arts organisations – an experience that has made this lack of awareness around intellectual property rights increasingly apparent. In particular, working for the Irish Visual Artists Rights Organisation (IVARO) has not only been a great education in copyright and licensing, but has also highlighted the sheer volume of artworks that are reproduced in Ireland on a daily basis. These professional experiences have fundamentally underlined that there is a pressing need for young artists to become more familiar with their rights, to value their intellectual property and to educate themselves about the organisations that support them in dealing with copyright and liscensing issues.   

IVARO was established in 2005 as a non-profit copyright collecting society for visual artists and their heirs. It is a membership organisation bringing together over 5,000 people. The IVARO membership is made up of visual artists at various stages of their career, as well as photographers, illustrators, graphic artists, designers and architects. The organisation offers copyright licensing services to customers in Ireland who wish to reproduce or transmit copies of visual artworks in a variety of ways. It connects these customers (copyright users) to the artists (copyright holders) it represents, in a way that ensures that the artist gets paid appropriately for the use of their work and that the integrity of the artwork is respected in each reproduction. Any artist represented by IVARO can direct clients to us and we will handle the necessary agreements and licensing fees.

IVARO is also a member of CISAC, the international body for copyright licensing societies. Through agreements with a network of sister societies, it also represents over 20,000 international artists, insofar as the use of their works in Ireland is concerned. This gives our customers access to some of the worlds’ most high-profile and in-demand artists. It also means that Irish artists’ interests are being looked after through reciprocal relations in those countries.

IVARO not only provides a licensing service but also supports artists through its other two main services: Artists Resale Right and RETURN. The Artists Resale Right (ARR) also known as droit de suite (right to follow), has been in operation in Ireland since June 2006. The regulations entitle artists to receive a royalty each time their work is resold by an auction house, gallery or art dealer. RETURN is a service for distributing reprographic royalties to visual creators. Reprographic royalties are collected from universities, schools and businesses that use photocopying machines. A share of these royalties can be claimed by any artist or visual creator whose work is contained in publications that have an ISBN or ISSN number (and are therefore available to be photocopied). IVARO negotiates a share of this money on behalf of visual creators in Ireland.

There is a perception that the activities of IVARO – and indeed issues of copyright and licensing – are only relevant to more established artists. Admittedly,  with regard to the ARR, a certain level of success is expected, if your artwork is being sold in auction houses. However, the licensing and RETURN services are relevant to all artists (at any career stage) whose work is being reproduced. Many younger artists may be due fees that they are not aware of. Educating yourself on intellectual property and copyright is essential, in order to really understand the monetary value of your work and the various ways it can be used. This is an important and necessary step, in definitively moving away from the mindset that permitting artworks to be reproduced by a third party for free is somehow “good exposure”.

Adrian Colwell is the Licensing Officer for IVARO.

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