A portrait of Harry

My – hasn’t little Harry grown up? With the impending release date of Harry Potter book V, I have to decide which edition I want to buy. There is the US edition with the beautiful cover art by Mary GrandPre (she has a fan club!) or the UK / Canadian edition with the phoenix rising from the flames on the cover and the original British text. This is the one that will probably also be the one that is available here in Australia. Here is a whole stack of different covers from around the world for the first book. I think my favourite is the one from France (after the US edition – and variations – which I think is fabulous). Harry’s not looking so well on the cover of the Icelandic version obviously having just been hit from behind by the Hogwart’s Express.
Recently I have been writing up quotes for clients and attempting to explain the tricky ins and outs of copyright and licensing of illustrations in a clear and concise way when the whole topic confuses me silly. When explaining how I like to retain copyright of my images I usually throw something into my emails along the lines of “this is so you don’t take the character and sell it to disney and make a million out of it.” Ha ha ha etc. But then you see an article about the illustrator Thomas Taylor who did the original illustration for the first Harry Potter book (UK edition) for less than £300 and now has to move countries because he can’t afford the house prices (ooh how I hear you Thomas Taylor!). “No one ever becomes that rich because they did the cover of a book” he says. And you see that they sold his original art at auction for £85,000 – “However, Mr Taylor received only an undisclosed percentage of the bid, as all rights remained with the publisher, Bloomsbury.”

After the book became a smash hit, Bloomsbury decided to use another artist Cliff Wright to do the covers but “he declined to do the fourth after it emerged that some of his original artwork had been lost.” (The front and back covers of the “The Prisoner of Azkaban”. Some more details can be found here – pdf file) At least it seems he was brave enough to retain the copyright of the images he created which meant he could make quite a tidy sum when deciding to sell the ones he did have.

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21 Responses

  1. aclifford@nuw.org.au says:

    I too intend to beat through hords of children on Saturday 21 to get my hands on the new Harry Potter. I am currently having the dilemma of purchasing from local good bookstore at full RRP or going to the major stores and getting it at discount. Claire have you ever thought of doing your own picture books – words and pictures?

  2. Interesting. I just went to a talk recently by Chank Diesel (http://www.chank.com) and one is his fonts is used for all Harry Potter items (including the packaging for fast food promotional items). Since the fonts were sold to whatever graphic designer who did the artwork, he hasn’t gotten any royalties off of Harry Potter.

  3. Can you retain international copyright by retaining it “locally” in your country? Could you point me to a good site where I could find information on this or mail me one of those informative mails you’ve composed yourself?
    Ah, questions, questions, sorry… 🙂

  4. ephall@hotmail.com says:

    Heck – the UK has a good site on intellectual property and covers international issues. It is at http://www.intellectual-property.gov.uk
    And Claire, under the EU Droit de suite directive, living UK artists (such as Mr Taylor)will be entitled to resale royalties for subsequent sales of their work as of January 2006. The Australian government is also considering whether to introduce a resale royalty arrangement here, as it was a recommendation of the Myer Report released last year. So maybe when your illustrations are going under the hammer at Sothebys in years to come you will see some returns …

  5. annaged@kjsl.com says:

    Picture books are virtually impossible to sell in the Australian market even if you are already published. It’s really hard to sell anything at all she says bitterly but PBs are currently the worst.

  6. yeah, the Icelandic cover for the first books is awful, the translations sucks as well 🙁

  7. o Claire… I hear you. I find the whole copyright issue mindboggling as well. And in my experience, clients just don’t get it. I really need to educate myself more completely on the subject. If you uncover a great resource, please share. In the meantime, I’ll investigate the sites listed above.

  8. Claire, when we hire illustrators for book covers, we have a contract with them very similar to those from rights-protected (i.e., NOT royalty-free) stock photo agencies. Basically, they sign an agreement that we can use their art for a project but only on the terms stipulated — region (usually North America only), initial print run, related merchandising materials, etc. IF the book does well and we want to increase the number of countries (such as sell the pub rights to our UK counterparts), or if the print run winds up being higher than expected, we have to renegotiate the contract and pay them more money to continue using their artwork. The artist almost *always* holds the copyright to their work (though there are some cases where we will buy the rights fully, but that is usually with photography rather than illustration), even if it’s on our covers. I work for one of the biggest media companies in the world, so I imagine this must be somewhat standard practice…at least in the US. If you’d like more info on contract wording, etc., get in touch with me privately. You *can* protect your rights and the integrity of your work, provided you have a signed contract from the beginning.

  9. Also, I wanted to mention that we never keep the original artwork once the project is completed. Generally, as soon as I receive a painting or illo, I send it out for both a very high-resolution drum scan as well as a 3×4 color chrome plus a duplicate. We keep these on file, and supply as needed to printers, designers, promotional editors, salespeople, etc. We never pass around the original art — that is always sent back to the artist. It is incredibly rare for an original piece to be lost, but if you want to avoid this entirely, you could always request to have the scans done yourself, and only provide digital files to the client.

  10. *blushing* I pre-ordered my copy of Order of the Phoenix via Amazon.ca two months ago!
    Great post!

  11. sfg@peak.org says:

    I adore Mary GrandPre’s work. I remember her being featured in Step by Step Graphics back when I was in art school — I believe it was the same issue my illustration class was featured in. 🙂

  12. I am anxiously awaiting the next book and this one isnt even out yet.
    I am wondering with all my being will Hermine and Ron get married?
    Will Hermine die?
    Will Harry become the next Dumbledore…

    These stories – the art they inspire (movies, illustrations, games ancillary merchandise extroidinare is beyond measure…

    The increasing darkness only seems to draw me in more…

    I can not even imagine how it will all end.

    I dont really ever want it to.

  13. lraymond66@hotmail.com says:

    If the environment figures into your purchasing decision, then the Canadian edition is the way to go. It is the only one being printed on quality recycled paper – from the publisher:”By printing the first run of the 768-page Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on recycled paper, Rycroft said Raincoast has saved:

    29,640 trees, a forest area equivalent to 95 times the size of the Skydome in Toronto or equivalent to a forest area just larger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park;
    47,007,044 litres of water, and
    633,557 kilograms of solid waste.”

    Here’s the entire article:

  14. i really like the one from finland. but you know what i think would be really neat? a ‘loobylu version’ of the book cover. *hint hint* 🙂

  15. *scratches head* hmm..this copyright thingy still confuses me…oh well, i still have 1 more year before graduating art school so i don’t need to worry about those kind of illustrator-client mishaps yet..:D anyway i can’t wait to get my hands on the 5th book too! yeah, a “loobylu” cover would be nice, could you do it claire? just for the heck of it? *grins*

  16. For more information about copyright and the web you can go to Ivan Hoffman’s website. There are some pretty interesting articles there. He is a lawyer who specializes in American Internet and intellectual property law.

  17. i remember going to the world book store in sydney for a french excursion last year, and i found German Harry to be positively EVIL, but the Harry Potter font in Korean characters absolutely cracked me up.
    they even had a big list of all the languages you could get it in, and i’m pretty sure Swahili (sp?) was up there too…

  18. So you have a complete right to keep hold of the copyright? Does this put potential clients off at all?
    Is harry 15 now? I think I’m growing up with him again. First we were the same age, then he was a year older, then younger, and now we’re almost back on track. When I was a bit younger, that was my favourite thing about the books – that we were the same age.

  19. I’d suggest either http://www.viscopy.com or http://www.copyright.org.au
    I get the hassles of all the who owns the copyright crap. Legally you retain the rights and would require the assistance of someone like the Arts Law Centre to aid in selling your rights to the client. Let me know if you need help, I’ve seen it all now to know what to look for.

  20. SwllElle@aol.com says:

    Oooh, I second (or third?) Sarah and Meg – A Looblu Harry Potter cover would be fab.
    I’ve never commented before, but I’d just like to say how much I adore your artwork and writing style. Loobylu.com is like a great book that never ends. Thanks for sharing your life and most of all, your gorgeous talents with us all.

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