Mind Your Business: Who is Keeping Your Royalties?
It should piss you off, too!
Did you know that companies and institutions here in the U.S. and in foreign countries around the world pay royalties for photocopies they make of pages and images in books and written and visual materials? Did you know that companies here in the US collect those royalties on your behalf? Did you know these sums run into the millions of dollars?
Have you gotten your check? No, as an illustrator, most likely you haven't.
These royalty payments for making copies of our work are called reprographic royalties.
Reprographic royalties are collective fees owed to authors, illustrators and photographers (but not always paid) for the licensed photocopying of published work used in compilations such as books, journals, blogs, newspapers, e-books and such. Colleges, institutions and businesses photocopy great masses of printed matter.
To protect themselves from possible lawsuits for copyright infringement from authors and publishers, these users pay a fee to a copyright collecting society, also known as a Reprographic Rights Organization (RRO).
In theory, these collecting societies should return shares of these collective fees to the rights holders, whether they are authors, illustrators, publishers or photographers, just like jukebox money is returned to songwriters, composers and music publishers.
In music, collecting societies are well known. ASCAP and BMI collect and distribute money for and to songwriters and composers.
While fine artists have the Artists Rights Society (ARS, which does distribute royalties, http://www.arsny.com ), illustrators have no collecting and distributing society that I am aware of.
This means that all the reprographic royalties and other collective fees are either being held in escrow or are being paid to various societies and publishers and the royalties never make it to us, the illustrators, who produced and hopefully own the rights to our own work, which has been published in various formats.
Let's follow the money trail. Institutions and businesses pay a reprographic royalty to a collecting society, a Reprographic Rights Organization or RRO. The RRO then makes royalty payments to authors or publishers. Publishers should then make payments to the authors and illustrators whose copyright protected work was photocopied.
According to the Authors Coalition of America's website, the American RRO, which is collecting reprographic royalties, is the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) (www.Copyright.com). The CCC website states, "The CCC was created in 1978 by a group of authors and publishers."
Some of my books (Storyboards: Motion In Art, 2nd & 3rd Edition, Producing Independent 2D Character Animation, Facial Expressions) are with large publishers and I have found them listed on the CCC website. (Finding your illustrations on any database is not so easy…yet.)
There are a few ways institutions can pay the CCC for permission to photocopy elements of my books for various uses.
One, there is a pay-per-use option where a specific title is searched for and photocopy rights may be purchased for that title. When I searched on the CCC website for my book Facial Expressions, I found that copying my book for use in a classroom costs $0.177 per page. My book Producing Independent 2D Character Animation would cost $0.25 per page to copy.