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Update: Just to clarify, this book is published by Udon Entertainment under license from Capcom. I’m told that they’ve done four other books under this model, all of them successful, and that the prints are indeed intended as compensation for the artwork. Is that a fair compensation? It may not seem like it when you walk down the aisle of every con and see people selling unauthorized prints and tea cozies. However, another aspect of the shifting financial realities of our little economy is that companies are beginning to crack down on these unauthorized usages, removing yet another revenue stream for artists.

I’ve edited the story throughout to reflect this correction.
Video game giant Capcom Udon Entertainment is is putting out a tribute book of art, called Capcom Fighting Tribute. And it’s open to artists fan and pro:

This collection will offer a chance for hundreds of professional and fan artists to show off their artistic skills and pay homage to their favorite characters, settings and moments from the fighting games of Capcom!

All styles of art are welcome – digital painting, traditional media, anime, cartoon, pixel-based, even sculptures – whatever best expresses the artist’s love for this timeless collection of beloved video game franchises.

Properties included in the project are Street Fighter™, Darkstalkers™, Rival Schools™, Red Earth™, Star Gladiator, Power Stone™, Cyberbots, Capcom Fighting Evolution™, Puzzle Fighter™, Pocket Fighter™, Final Fight™, Battle Circuit, Captain Commando, Armored Warriors, Knights of the Round, The King of Dragons, Avengers (Hissatsu no Buraiken), and Capcom original characters Ruby Heart, Son-Son, and Amingo!


Sounds cool right? Sort of. BUT on the submissions rules, it states:

There is no payment to artists for artwork used in the Capcom Fighting Tribute book. All selected artwork becomes the property of Capcom.


Accepted artists can however makes up to 200 prints of their piece and sell those, I suppose. But this is yet another example of the “no pay” model that seems to be getting more and more normal.
Artist Reilly Brown noticed this and sounded off on his Deviant Art page:

I’m a professional, I get treated like a professional, paid like a professional or I don’t do the job.
All this really is is an attempt to get free content (that they will own forever) for a high-priced product.
I know what you’re thinking– “but I love Capcom games!  Even though I’m a professional working on another property, I want to draw a Capcom character too!”
Well shit, bro, I love Capcom too, and I’ll tell you, nothing’s stopping me from drawing those characters all damn day if I wanted to.  But I’m not going to give those drawings– that time and labor– to a company who plans on making money off of them FOR FREE.  Until I give them that art, I still own that art and can do whatever I wish with it, or at least whatever I’m able to with characters that I don’t own the trademark for, such as put it on my website, which the rules for this “contest” bans.


A lot of us are so numb to the plethora of free content on the web that this seems almost normal—is this any different than what you see on Tumblr every day? But remember, Capcom is a PROFESSIONAL company and charge money for their games. As mentioned above, this is actually a licensed project from Udon Entertainment, a company that is generally known to treat freelancers in a fair and upfront manner. I know that if they actually PAID for all the submissions the book would probably be too expensive to even put out, but…is that really where we are these days?

The continuing devaluation of art is going to be one of the big stories of 2015 and beyond. I’m not sure what the solution is, but as Brown suggests, artists should “have more respect for your profession.”

Addendum: Just to be clear, the revenue from selling 250 prints at $10 or $20 a pop would probably be more than the artists would make from the art. However, it’s still a concession to the realities of an industry that isn’t as healthy as it should be.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Why yes, Tom, when we wrote something for the Beat, we got paid.
    It’s a bit disingenuous to compare Capcom to The Beat, isn’t it?…

  2. It’s too bad that Capcom is such a struggling company that they need support from artists.

    “The Japanese publisher grew its profit by nearly 16 percent for the fiscal year .With the yen’s depreciation and an improving Japanese economy, Capcom today reported net income up almost 16 percent for the fiscal year ended on March 31, 2014. Profit totaled 3.44 billion yen ($33.8 million) for the year (up 15.9 percent) while net sales climbed 8.6 percent to 102.2 billion yen ($1 billion).” http://goo.gl/8KOYBB

  3. Working for ‘exposure’ usually doesn’t work in any industry. Sure, there are the anecdotes we all hear about, but most people get ‘exposed’ and are still able to get paid for their hard work.

  4. “I know that if they actually PAID for all the submissions the book would probably be too expensive to even put out, but…is that really where we are these days? ”
    Actually, I don’t think that’s true. Certainly a hardcover book with maybe 300 pages of full color art isn’t going to be cheap to produce, but if the price tag is $80 like their previous tribute books, they should be able to pay their artists a decent rate (at least decent on a comic book artist scale) and make that money back relatively quickly. So it’s not much of a risk for them.

    “is this any different than what you see on Tumblr every day?”
    The difference is that Tumblr never requires you to surrender the copyright for the work that you post there. That’s actually a pretty big difference.
    There has been occasion in the past where I’ve posted an image of a character on social media just as a portfolio piece, and then been contacted by the company who owns that character to tell me that they liked it and offered to pay me to use it in their own publication.
    That’s not an option with this.
    I suppose if you consider the license to sell your piece as a print as a form of compensation, you should keep in mind that the rules specify a limited number of prints that you can sell, limited ways that you can sell it, and also the fact that you have to front all the costs of the print yourself.
    I don’t know, maybe that’s worth it to you, maybe it’s not.
    If an artist makes a print of a piece that they owned the copyright to themselves, they’d have to do the same thing anyway, and wouldn’t have as many limitations.
    Also keep in mind that none of that has anything to do with the book that you’re actually submitting to, which Udon will be selling for a rather high price point, and presumably how well it will sell will be based on the quality of the donated art inside.

    So obviously, every artist runs their own business and their own career however they see fit. Personally I don’t see much benefit to the individual artists who are involved in this project as it’s laid out, and it’s the type of thing that I would stay away from. As much as I’d love to draw some Capcom characters, I still have bills to pay.

  5. “I know that if they actually PAID for all the submissions the book would probably be too expensive to even put out, but…”

    Then the book probably isn’t commercially viable and shouldn’t be released, says this retailer.

    -B

  6. I wonder if Udon pays a licensing fee to publish these books? That’s how a lot of this stuff happens. and its not cheap…Like tens of thousands. Comics are the outlier in the publishing industry on the business side so you can’t really apply that system to the rest of the publishing world. You give up a lot to work in comics financially as opposed to other commercial illustration fields. Where would comics be if artists started demanding the same rates as commercial/editorial or advertising illustrators?

    The lines between fan art and professional art is really thin. Its interesting that we’re seeing more of this kind of thing over hiring dozens of pro commercial artists to do heavily art directed WFH pieces. I don’t know if its good or bad, but i don’t see it changing anytime soon.

  7. I’m sadly disappointed in this awesome project being lumped into the same category as a lot of those scam contests.

    Although I in no way speak officially for Udon or Capcom in this matter, I can at least clarify some things from a working professional artist’s perspective. Full disclosure: I am an artist who works with Udon, and I can attest to Udon’s awesome and fair treatment of artists who have worked with Udon in the past.

    All of the legalise stating that this isn’t a paid project and the forfeiting of rights to the work is standard corporate legalise to prevent artists from sueing Capcom in the future. Will anyone stop you from using the work on your site? Probably not. Chances are slim that anyone would even know how many actual prints you made and sold.

    As far as I can tell, the compensation is as follows:

    1) You receive a free copy of the book, an $80 retail value.
    2) You are granted a legal license to make prints and sell them. If you manage to sell all 200 prints at $10 a piece, minus printing costs(say $2/print), that’s a $1600 profit. Every fanartist who has ever made a print of one of Capcom’s characters and sold said prints has done so ILLEGALLY. Licenses cost money. You are given this license as compensation.

    So, if you break it down, on the low end(you don’t sell any prints), you make $80 bucks in merchandise from a book you would want in your collection as an artist anyways. On the high end, you make $1680 or more(depending on how much you charge for prints). The fact is, you ARE being compensated for you work.

    If you don’t get in the book, you still own your work. No harm, no foul.

    But in the end, it’s up to each artist to decide whether or not it’s worth your time to participate in something like this. I know a bunch of professional artists who can demand a much higher price than the compensation being offered here, and yet, they would want to submit a piece anyways and wouldn’t even demand pay. Why? Because it’s a celebration of the franchises that helped shaped us as artists. This is why it’s called a Tribute Book.

    Yes, there are plenty of shady contests asking for work for no compensation and you lose the rights to said work as soon as you submit it. This is NOT one of those contests.

    Respectfully,

    -Long Vo

  8. I find no offense in this project. It’s a good way for unknown and unpublished artists to see their work in print. If you are a professional artist that wants compensation for the artwork, then fine, step away from this project and give others a chance to be published.
    Besides, no matter how much people try to push the “pay the artist” POV, there will still be a lot of artists who will participate in this for free, even just for the love of it.

  9. Just to clarify: I do not think this project is bad or evil or that people shouldn’t do it, if they want to. But it IS a sign of the times, and how thin margins really are in this business. This kind of thing is going to be discussed a LOT more in the coming year.

  10. They’ve not sold those prints illegally, unless Capcom actually pursues litigation. Plenty of people sell prints of all types of characters; it’s actually only copyright infringement when the holder can prove the idea BEHIND the drawing is being stolen and would constitute infringment of said idea.
    ===
    it’s doubtful people celebrating (as you put it) Capcom characters by selling small prints to willing fans would be deemed guilty by any unbiased judge; rather, it’s the corporate and legal muscle behind these big license holders that would threaten the artist selling $5 prints. The law would be on their side in a perfect world, but we’re not perfect.

  11. Hey, why not try a new way of compensation (like a free license to make art prints) and see if it works? Nothing wrong with the idea conceptually, though I agree it seems really impractical. If I were an artist I would probably opt to skip the art print thing and receive a check instead.

    I think the bigger point here is about how difficult it is to make any book viable these days, let alone a niche fan-targeted one like this. As Brian said, in my business, if a book’s projections come out negative, we don’t publish that book, but if you have a passion for a project I can understand bending over backwards trying to make it work somehow.

  12. “They’ve not sold those prints illegally, unless Capcom actually pursues litigation. Plenty of people sell prints of all types of characters; it’s actually only copyright infringement when the holder can prove the idea BEHIND the drawing is being stolen and would constitute infringment of said idea.”

    That is so not even close to the copyright and trademark issues that make unlicensed convention prints illegal. Not even.

    The copyright and trademark holder doesn’t have to prove any such thing. The trademarks are being violated, and the unlicensed art constitutes derivative work being sold for commercial purposes. Just because they haven’t decided to crack down on this crap doesn’t mean they won’t.

  13. It can be argued that they are both transformative and fair use and thus not derivative since many are effectively parodying the work. They’re also promoting it, though that’s neither here nor there.

  14. You could argue that all you want, but what you write has nothing to do with actual law. These “prints” are not even remotely transformative. There is no artistic statement to be made, except “Look at my pic of Harley Quinn and buy it, because I can’t get a job as an officially licensed artist at DC Comics”. Even if you make a pic of Batman that you do not sell to DC Comics, you still don’t own the Batman trademark, and you are still in violation of trademark law which has even more teeth than copyright law.

    “… the enquiry focuses on whether the new work merely supersedes the objects of the original creation, or whether and to what extent it is “transformative,” altering the original with new expression, meaning, or message. The more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, like commercialism, that may weigh against a finding of fair use.”

    Your pic of Batman, using Batman logos, Batman’s costume, and selling entirely because it is Batman, not because you have inserted any new ideas, message or meaning. There is no new idea expression, message or meaning to be found in these unlicensed prints of Wolverine, or Wonder Woman, or anybody else. They have no value beyond the IP they are parasitically feeding upon.

    Unlicensed prints do not meet any of the multi-pronged tests of the Fair Use statue.

    These are the standards used by the courts to determine whether or not a work is Fair Use.

    The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    The nature of the copyrighted work
    The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work

    Pics of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy standing there have nothing to do with parody. “Many” do not effectively parody anything. They are simply making a buck off IP these people do not own.

    There is nothing in copyright or trademark law that has anything to do with your personal definition of the value of unlicensed promotion. It is irrelevant.

    In the rare instances when I’ve seen actually parodies for sale, I’m all for them. But what I see at conventions consists primarily of fan artists trying to make extra cash on art they do not own. Standing on the shoulders of giants.

    The minute someone else does the same to them, they squeal “Thief!”

  15. I in fact stated that the promotion aspect was ‘neither here nor there’. Your disparaging, condescending tone of ‘fan artists’ is really all I need to know. I’ve seen MANY instances of clever repurposing that is totally the artist’s creation and is simply building off a known entity. That the known entity is owned by a lawyered up company is the reason so many back away from trying to defend and prove in court that they are in fact not ‘parasitically feeding upon’ the precious IP you are talking about.

  16. I think an aspect to this story that no one is looking at is how IP owners are looking at fan made art as a legitimate part of the culture that’s worth documenting. Sure its not art directed and “on brand” but its in the world and part of the culture. These types of fan art books aren’t new and aren’t going anywhere for larger brands.

    Is this going to turn into another case of pros trashing on fan culture when they think it starts to “compete” with their business? In exchange for producing 1 image for a book, an artist gets published with no art direction hassles, a free copy of the book and a license to sell prints, that’s actually a better deal that the meager flat rate fee they’d prob get otherwise. The copyright issue is still dodgy but that’s not changing anytime soon. Lets face it, A few lawyers could shut down all of artist alley at any con, any time they wanted.

  17. OK, Chris, the objective reality is the issue is unlicensed fan art. That shouldn’t be offensive to you, since it’s your stated position. And I don’t see any reason to take your tone policing any more seriously than I take your complete lack of understanding of IP Law.

    I like fan art. When you make fan art for love, that’s great. These people are selling prints for profits. No other reason.

    If the IP weren’t so precious, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

    Go make original work to sell, and no one would have this problem.

    The IP owners are being very generous by not sending legal teams through Artist Alleys. They’ve quietly shut down people before, including big name pros who did not get licenses. They don’t have to enforce copyright if they don’t want, but they have a legal obligation to enforce trademark.

    The only reason any of this stuff is sold is because of the ability of these IP owners to turn the other cheek. Very little of this material is legally defensible.

    I see nothing wrong with this company bartering for art here. If no one wants to join in, they don’t have to. It’s a lucrative license. Anyone who wants should go for it.

  18. I just want to say I really enjoy The Beat’s editing process of putting a strike-through through the original content, and putting their correction right after. It comes across as a very honest way to do it.

  19. I’d just like to point out that Udon isn’t making prints here, they’re making a book, which they’re selling for a high price and keeping all the money. Also, they’re asking for new, unpublished, never-before-seen work, and the entire copyright to that work. And they’re not just asking for it from fan artists, but from industry professionals as well.
    The right to produce the prints is kind of a weird compensation that doesn’t have much to do with the actual issue. It shows how important Udon feels the Artist’s Alley culture can be for artists, but why do artists have to make their money doing what’s essentially retail when there are publishers printing their work in big pricey books? Isn’t that kind of backwards? Maybe those limited reproduction rights are worth something to some artists, but isn’t the artist’s work worth anything to Udon?

  20. If Udon is asking for ownership of the art, then I would say that is the evil part of the deal. The artists no longer own the image and personally, I feel giving away their work with only recognition in the book and the ability to sell 200 prints IS screwing them over. The art is no longer theirs. Even if they decided to create something similar to sell, it’s not inconceivable (unlikely, but not inconceivable) that Udon could come after them for copyright violation.

    Also, what’s to stop Udon from selling their own prints of the art with no need to share profits with the original artist?

  21. Reilly, I like you man. I consider you and I buds. But having started my career with UDON and still being friends with Erik Ko as well as contributing to the first volume of their tribute book under the current compensation model and knowing the costs and profits that go into and come out of this book, I think you’re way off base. Please reread Long Vo’s comment and take it to heart. If Erik were to pay the artists(most of which are amateur and are lucky to get published at all much less with a compensation model) using the profits he makes from the book, every artist would get around $200 and that would eat up the entirety of any profits. I don’t know about you but I’d much rather have the couple’o’thousand dollars from the licensed prints that a few hundred bucks.
    For artists like you I can completely understand not wanting to participate in this book. You’re a working and well paid artist for Marvel and DC and the name a reputation you have built up don’t need a project like this. But for the hundreds of amateur artist that are lucky to get paid anything for a project that will be lucky to ever see the light of day, this is a great way to get published on a well known licensed property and has an actual compensation model that I and hundreds of artists that have been published in the book can testify works. Hope you’ll consider this and maybe come at it from someone else’s perspective. There’s definitely a lot of people and/or publishers out there trying their damnedest to scam artists out of their hard work. UDON ain’t one of them.

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