You’re a talented artist and your best friend is a talented writer – and you’re thinking about putting together a graphic novel as a collaborative effort. Your buddy will do the story for the novel, and you’ll do all the panels.
Now, who owns what? The answer may surprise you. Many artists assume that they are the rightful owners of whatever part they contributed to the collaborative project – making you the owner of the art and your friend the owner of the storyline.
Except that’s not how copyright law works. When you agree to collaborate on a piece of work, you and your partner end up with a joint work of authorship – and you both own 50% of everything. They may not seem particularly fair, especially if you feel like you ultimately contributed far more effort to the project. It can also make it difficult for you to use your own work in the future for anything else.
A collaboration agreement can avert a lot of problems
This is where a good collaboration agreement comes in. These are nothing more than written agreements between co-creators that define things like:
- Ownership and use: Who owns what part of the finished project? Who has the right to license the work for use in other media or use the work as a basis for additional projects? Who can revise the work, and do they need the other party’s consent?
- Credit for the work: How is each author going to be credited for their part? Whose name goes first on the work?
- Royalties: If the work is commercially successful, how will the proceeds from the project be divided? Who will pay for any expenses associated with the promotion of the work (will that be divided also or shouldered by one party over the other)?
You can even address issues like who gets final approval for the work before it goes to a publisher or hits the market and what sort of reproduction rights you want to allow.
You’re a creative person, and you associate with a lot of other creative people on a regular basis because you find their thoughts and work inspiring. Sometimes, those conversations lead to thoughts of collaborative work – and that’s fantastic. Just make sure that you have the right legal agreements backing you up.