MRK’s very strong feelings about the WFC award specs and paying artists
I was an art major in college. It’s been on my bucket list to design an award, though I’d been thinking of the Hugo base. So when World Fantasy announced that they were going to replace the existing award, I asked for more information.
Today I got it. And it is bullshit.
I say this with some pain. A couple of the people on the committee are friends and I feel like they should know better. So I sent back a letter saying that I would not be submitting a design and asking them to change their award criteria.
Here are the points I made, in a slightly edited for in order to provide more information for anyone who is considering submitting a design.
- “there will be no monetary remuneration”– World Fantasy is “not a financial body and does not hold funds of any kind.” Okay, fair enough, but if you can require conventions to give away memberships, then you can require them to compensate the artist for their time. There’s also this thing called crowdfunding that would allow payment of an artist and could be done in cooperation with another organization.
- “The copyright of the piece must remain with the WFA for the lifetime of the award.” — While a buyout is not uncommon for work-for-hire, it usually comes at a higher price to represent the value of the copyright. There are multiple legal options to allow the artist to maintain the copyright, while at the same time protecting World Fantasy’s right to use and control the use of the image. An unpaid copyright grab is unnecessary and inappropriate.
- Time to create the award — Okay… “Design proposals must be submitted by midnight US Eastern Standard Time on Friday, September 30, 2016.” and “the awards are announced on Sunday 30th October 2016” You are asking someone to make 10-20 awards in less than a month. Significantly less than a month, since that entry date is for the first round, and they would have to be finished by mid-October in order to be shipped on time. This is not reasonable. Edited to add: Ellen Datlow has clarified that they are seeking a design that can be commercially produced by an independent manufacturer. Also that they are not planning on presenting the physical award in Columbus, just unveiling it. The winners will receive the award later.
None of this would be appropriate if we were discussing fiction and it isn’t appropriate for art either.
There are times and places when working for exposure is warranted. It is very rare and very specific to the artist. There might be some folks who want to design this and can see how it would benefit them. I won’t shame anyone for making that choice.
But I am ashamed of World Fantasy for creating a situation where that’s a choice an artist has to make.
Edited to add: I should point out that John Picacio talked about the problem with not paying artists for award design in November of last year.