Large corporations do not need to worry about copyright law if they steel from vulnerable individuals. I have learned about this recently when a large publisher illegally used my drawings in a book.
How this happened?
In 2015 I have received email from 5M Publishing in which they ask my permission to use my images.
I have informed them that the cost of one image would be £40.
They informed me that they cannot pay that much.
I have asked them how much they can pay?
They answered that that they cannot pay anything. I was a little disappointed because finally it became clear what is the real value of my drawings. I did not reply to this message.
In 2018 I have found by accident that the publisher used my images in a book entitled:
Carr J. 2016. Managing Bee Health: A Practical Guide for Beekeepers. 5M Publishing.
Three images were illegally published in the book under numbers: Fig. 1.51 , 1.52, 1.53
Among others drawing of queen development was illegally copied from here.
The publication was illegal because I (the copyright owner) have not given permission for the publication and I was not paid anything.
I have contacted Head of Publishing of the publisher and I have informed him about the copyright infringement. First he offered me £40 and later (after one month) £50 per image. Next I have informed about the copyright infringement a corporation which is the owner of the publisher. Head of Intellectual Property offered me £250 for all three images (£83.33 per image).
I have not accepted those offers because I do not think it is fair. The publisher removed my copyright notice and did not provide any information that I am the author of the drawings. Moreover, I have wasted a lot of time dealing with this copyright infringement.
Why don't you go to court?
I have contacted some lawyers in UK and it seems that legal cost of simple paperwork would be around £550 and in case of court proceedings around £3000. Even in case of winning the publisher would only have to pay around £500 of those costs. In short the legal costs are relatively high and possibly higher than the potential damages.
If there is a layer who is willing to represent me and who will accept a percentage of the damages please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maybe the publisher is a small enterprise owned by poor inexperienced enthusiast?
On the contrary the publisher is a large publishing house which is owned by even larger corporation. Their revenue in 2018 was more than £150 millions.
Maybe described above situation is exceptional and most publishers are willing to pay for images?
In the past I have been asked many times for permission to use my drawings. In a few cases I have agreed to published them free of charge, however, I have noticed that I need to waste some time filling forms and sending them to publishers. Therefore, at some point I have decided to ask for some compensation. Since then only one publisher offered me any payment. This is not because I have asked too much. I usually ask how much they are willing to pay?
The image inquires have the same pattern. First a publisher asks for permission to use an image and no money is mentioned at this stage. When I answer that I do not provide images for free they usually insist for providing the price. Finally they refuse to pay anything even when I ask them how much they are willing to pay?
Why the publishers ask for the price if they are not willing to pay?
Information about the price of the artwork can be useful for predicting the potential damages paid by dishonest publisher in case of copyright infringement. It is often assumed that the damages are twice the price of the artwork. Incidentally the damages offered to me are only little more than twice the price I have initially suggested.
It is possible that some dishonest publishers obtain the information about price of the artwork and if it is small they decide to publish the artwork illegally. Risk of future problems for the publisher seems to be relatively small. First of all knowledge of copyright law is relatively small among some inexperienced creators. Moreover, it is unlikely that the author will ever be aware of illegal publication. Finally even if the author will detect the illegal publication and has knowledge about copyright law it is difficult and expensive to obtain any substantial damages. The damages can be much smaller than the cost of legal action. In case of inexpensive artwork, publishers can save on the commission fees and paperwork, while risking relatively little.
How much my artwork is worth?
Many enthusiasts create images for fun and publish them in the web. They do not expect to be paid or do not know how much their artworks are worth. If you are a beginner who is presenting some images in the web and a professional publisher asks for permission to use them for commercial purposes the best strategy is to ask the publisher how much he or she is willing to pay. By doing this you can obtain information about potential value of your image. Moreover, you avoid too small damages in case of copyright infringement. If the price suggested by the publisher would be too small you can always not agree and if the image will be published illegally you can obtain larger damages comparable to professional artist.
From my experience: be prepared that most publishers will not be willing to provide any price. Most of them would expect to obtain the images from inexperienced creators for free.
Situation is different when you know the value of your artwork or when a publisher asks you for preparation of completely new image. In this case you should probably provide the price.