The Authors Guild, Inc

Post 2 in my Professional Authors Associations Series. Click here to read post 1.

The Authors Guild:

If you are a published book or freelance author, have been offered a publishing contract or are a self-published book author, you should seriously consider joining the Authors Guild. The Guild has more than 9000 members writing in every genre, and is the only organization that offers members individual business and legal advice, including contract reviews and advocacy, from experienced publishing attorneys at no additional charge. Members receive its Model Trade Book Contract and Guide with helpful negotiating tips. Its quarterly Bulletin and frequent Advocacy Alerts keep authors up-to-date on key legal and business developments. The Guild lobbies for legislation favorable to writers and engages in grass roots and direct advocacy against unfair businesses practices by publishers, agents, and retailers. It offers print-on-demand republishing service, seminars and workshops on negotiating contracts and industry trends, and superior and economical web and blogging site design software to members.

This information has been adapted from the 4th edition of The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and myself, co-published by The Authors Guild.

Moral Rights

The Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), landmark legislation creating moral rights for artists in the United States, was enacted on December 1, 1990, as an amendment to the copyright law and took effect on June 1, 1991. Copyright, the power to control reproduction and other uses of a work, is a property right. Moral rights are best described as rights of personality. Even if the artist has sold a work and the accompanying copyright, the artist would still retain rights of personality.

Prior to the enactment of VARA, the protections for American artists had been limited and often unsatisfactory. While some legal commentators argued that American laws relating to unfair competition, trademarks, right to privacy, protection against defamation, right to publicity, patents and copyrights amounted to a satisfactory equivalent of moral rights, the better view was that this mélange did not at all approach the protections offered to creative people and their work under specially designed moral-rights provisions. Many artists’ groups recognized moral rights as an important issue and urged the enactment of legislation to guarantee this protection. A number of states responded by enacting pioneer moral rights laws, a trend that helped develop momentum for the enactment of VARA.

All visual artists benefit from this legislation that protects artists’ work and reputation even after the sale of of the work and their copyrights. Read the full text of the Act here.

To Join a Professional Writers Association

Post 1 in my Professional Authors Association Series

Every professional or aspiring writer should join a writers association. This could be one of the most prominent organizations I intend to highlight over the coming weeks, but you can easily find others, including local groups or branches of national groups, by doing a little research.

Writing is an isolated endeavor. Joining a writers group offers you many benefits that offset the negative effects of working alone. By connecting with other writers, virtually and in person, you become part of a community of people who share your professional interests and from whom you can learn current relevant market information. Information equals power in any negotiation, and membership in at least one writers organization will improve your knowledge of the legal and business environment and thereby help you enhance your negotiating position. Even the most successful writers with powerful agents gain from being part of a writing community, and most bestselling authors belong to at least one prominent organization.

There are numerous organizations for published and aspiring writers of every genre. Each offers varying benefits, such as substantive feedback on ongoing projects, practical advice about the market, writing competitions and awards, networking opportunities with agents and editors, current payment rates and industry information, legal advice and individual advocacy, lobbying for writers’ interests, health and liability insurance group plans, website- and blog-building software, self-promotion advice, and discounts to services. In general, membership dues are small and can usually be deducted on tax returns as a business expense against your writing income.

To give a brief glimpse into the well-established associations, I will post every other week with some basic information about another organization. Check back here for some ideas of groups to join to expand your network and your knowledge.

This information has been adapted from the 4th edition of The Writer’s Legal Guide by Kay Murray and myself.

What Do Legal Matters Have to Do with My Art?

“My life has been a chorus of ‘How can you call that art?’” – Carl Andre

“I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist” – Andy Warhol

Action in the legal sphere may appear to be an anomaly for the artist involved with creative work. Perhaps, as Carl Andre suggests, the artist should seek to withdraw from the art world and the dangers of success. Yet the artist seeking to earn his or her living from an art career must focus on art as commerce, what Andy Warhol calls being “a business artist.”

All artists, whether they agree with Carl Andre or Andy Warhol, must be capable of resolving business and legal issues. In this respect, a greater familiarity with art law and other sources of support will help the helpless, or victimized. Legal and business considerations exist from the moment an artist conceives a work or receives an assignment. While no handbook can solve the unique problems of each artist, the artist’s increased awareness of the general legal issues pertaining to art will aid in avoiding risks and gaining benefits that might otherwise pass unnoticed.

This has been adapted from  Legal Guide for the Visual Artist, 5th edition.