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First Things About Secondary Rights

28 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2011  

Brad W. Holland

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: June 15, 2006


Until recently, most freelance illustrators and photographers licensed their work exclusively through direct relationships with their clients. Clients commissioned a work for specific uses in their publications and paid a specific price to the creator. The rights negotiated for this usage were called primary rights; all other rights were secondary and, in theory, these were retained by the artist or photographer. For years, secondary rights were reckoned to have little or no commercial value. Yet, over the last three decades, major trends have altered this traditional licensing model and have made secondary rights a contested prize for publishers, commercial archives and creators alike.

The first of these trends is the growing demand from publishers that illustrators surrender all their rights as a condition of accepting assignments. The second is the spread of large, well-capitalized stock “agencies,” which use inventories of discounted back-work to compete with artists for their primary markets. Both of these trends preceded the internet, but online technologies have quickened the pace of change and have amplified their effects. This Article will largely address how these trends and the contest for secondary rights is re-shaping the field of visual arts. Part I will summarize the effects of change on freelance artists. Part II will outline the efforts by artists to create a system of collective rights management to protect their rights.

Keywords: visual art secondary rights, collective rights management, copyright, exclusive rights, reprographic rights

JEL Classification: O34, L82, D45, D79

Suggested Citation

Holland, Brad W., First Things About Secondary Rights (June 15, 2006). Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2006. Available at SSRN:

Brad Holland (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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