Have you watched a movie on Netflix? Played a song on Spotify? Downloaded a game from the app store? Actually, let’s take a step back. Think back to when you originally opened one of these — or even set this device up out of the box. Remember that long wall of text — something-something-something-tick-a-checkbox-tick-another-checkbox-something-something-omg-just-let-me-use-it?
If so, congratulations — you have just entered into a license agreement and, whether you know it or not, have continued one of the longest-standing methods of value-based pricing. It’s imperfect, it’s subjective, it’s complicated. But for many reasons, it’s also the best method we have for keeping things fair and our creative ecosystem healthy.
The sheer complexity of a global market — with new media platforms emerging faster than we can comprehend them — and our short-sighted desire to make things easier for our clients (as well as to simply survive) means we haven’t stopped to ask ourselves: what are we actually losing each time we agree to broader and broader license terms? In an economy and culture that is moving further away from the concept of ownership and attribution each day, the seemingly quaint model of licensing has never been more crucial to the ongoing survival of the creative community.
It is our (gloomy) assertion that the unwillingness of both sides of the creative fence to educate and engage in real discussions on how license agreements and usage fees can work for them in the modern era will eventually lead to the extinction of the current creative ecosystem as we know it. Sounds drastic? Well, it is.
To that end, we have established this site and this campaign, Use It Or Lose It, to hopefully kickstart those conversations and see how we can modernise the concept of licensing, bringing it up to speed with the current creative landscape.
While this could be said to mostly apply to traditional commercial visual artists such as Illustrators and Photographers (and the firms and individuals who commission them), this is actually a much bigger tent into which we welcome all practitioners to put our heads together for a common goal — a goal of ensuring that we can all make a full-time living doing what we love. Not just getting by, or doing something on the side, but actually thriving. Giving back. Growing families and communities. Teaching others and being taught. Whether you are a publisher who pays royalties or an author who receives them, a marketing manager who signs off six-figure rebranding efforts or the design studio who engages in work-for-hire, the local real estate agency who needs regular videos done or the DOP who works at a day rate. This is for all of us.
But beyond all that kumbaya, there is the business. Cold hard cash. There’s no way around that. And it requires everyone to come to the table for some real talk.
If you consider yourself a commercial artist and want to work in a system where you can see a clear path toward a sustainable career, this is for you. If you are someone who relies on the services of commercial artists for your own or your clients’ growth and well-being, this is for you.
For both of those things to happen, we need to broker a sane and fair approach to remuneration that will allow both parties to be there for each other.
Without the work, there can be no creatives. Without creatives, there can be no work. The way forward is clear — Use It Or Lose It.