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A Threadless Petition - The new artist agreements are BAD! Let's keep the rights to our work!

While it still feels great to be selected to be printed at Threadless, it feels awful having to sign a contract where you have to agree to give up the entire ownership of your design to Threadless FOREVER.


I also personally don't like the idea of Threadless sub-licensing one of my designs to some other company for some other product without my approval. Threadless used to ask for permission for this kind of thing.


If you haven't had a design selected since the new artist agreements were brought out, you can see an example of the new contract at this link...


https://www.dropbox.com/s/zqe15oiyyrb14l8/Contract_2013.pdf


If you're not comfortable with the new Threadless contract, sign your name in this thread and I'll add you to this petition. Together we can stop Threadless from becoming an evil corporation!



  1. andyg

  2. AlanBao

  3. Andreas Mohacsy

  4. sweet n sour

  5. David Rui

  6. ilovedoodle

  7. Gringz

  8. olie!

  9. ASchmidtArt

  10. ladrones

  11. xiaobaosg

  12. yeohgh

  13. expomonster

Watch this
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skaw
skaw profile pic Staff

Hey Andy, appreciate the feedback. I'll get into more details after hearing more from everyone in the thread. Here's a quick answer to why the terms are the way they are. We want to support as many independent artists with as many great opportunities as we can. As we've grown and start to partner with other companies, we found that it was a huge, timely administrative problem to go back for every design and get approval on every new opportunity we find. We were also finding that 99% of artists were saying yes to every opportunity we brought. So we thought we'd cut out that step but still allow for artists to get their rights back on various other things they'd want to do with their designs by notifying us (Number 11 in the agreement). So this new contract will allow us to get your designs in front of a lot more people, make you more money and still allow you to use your design for other things if you want to.

[+duracell-]

O.O

what just happened?

evyc

I feel like if I didn't want Threadless to have the rights to my work, I wouldn't submit my art to them in the first place. And I don't submit all of my work, I only submit the work I either don't mind giving up, or work I've done specifically for a competition here. I have pieces I want 100% of the rights to, so I'll always keep those to myself.

As far as licensing to another company, I trust Threadless. They are a professional company and I don't think they would give my design to just ANYONE who wants it. They let other professional companies that they have partnered with print it and I in return, get noticed by a lot more people.

evyc

Also, again Threadless is a professional company. They have to make money to grow and stay in business.

macdoodle
evyc said:

I feel like if I didn't want Threadless to have the rights to my work, I wouldn't submit my art to them in the first place.

Exactly!

jamesf

As a threadlesser that's not a real artist it is probably less of a concern for me, but I could see how it would be for proper artists

andyg

Thanks for responding, Jake. I understand how this new agreement makes things a little easier on your end, but at the same time, I don't see how having artists signing additional agreements to have a previously selected design printed on other items can really be that time consuming.

While Threadless has expanded the types of products it prints on over the years, the frequency of these new items and the amount of artists involved with each doesn't seem that overwhelming to me.

I think that the new agreement will discourage a lot of established artists from submitting artwork that they feel really proud of here anymore. I have no problem with Threadless printing my designs on t-shirts as many times as they want to, but I want to be in control of my own work and anyone else with a soul should want this for themselves too.

I get a really bad feeling in my gut when I have to sign away my design in its entirety. I don't want to end my Threadless career because of that reason, but it just doesn't feel right.

andyg
evyc said:

I feel like if I didn't want Threadless to have the rights to my work, I wouldn't submit my art to them in the first place.

I think a lot of great artists who have actually launched successful careers from being on Threadless will agree with that statement and that's unfortunate for Threadless. If they can hold on to the rights and own what they made outside of t-shirts, it's all good.

gebe
2 designs submitted - Score now!

Hi Andy. I think that Threadless doesn't work like Disney, artists do not become the property of Threadless, but simply Threadless sells something that bears YOUR name.

ilovedoodle has been printed several times, but continues to sell his works as prints on his personal website, so you can too!

andyg
gebe said:

Hi Andy. I think that Threadless doesn't work like Disney, artists do not become the property of Threadless, but simply Threadless sells something that bears YOUR name.

Gebe, the artists don't become property of Threadless, but under the new artist agreement, their selected designs do.

AlanBao

Y'know, I've always wondered about that. The current contract has some very strong legal language - it's essentially work-for-hire, with all claims of ownership, authorship, and moral rights taken from the artist.

Now, I love Threadless with all my heart - this community got me back into illustration, and was a real morale and financial boost while I was unemployed. I don't want sound entitled, or bite the hand that feeds, so to speak - but I do feel that a dialogue about the severity of contract is a good one to have, if only to set peoples' minds at ease.

Under the current contract, the artist must waive their claim to ownership, authorship, moral rights, everything - meaning that, legally, they have zero control over their work. The whole agreement runs on trust - which, given its track record, Threadless has certainly earned from me. However, there is still the fact that the artist is left with no legal empowerment if that trust is ever breached; and on principle, I feel that's something that should be changed, if at all possible.

BlancaJP
1 design submitted - Score now!

Selling your art away is the name if the game. That is what being an artist for hire is. As long as Threadless and all it's partners that the art work gets send to, pays royalties to the artist for all items sold, it seems like a good deal. The more they sell, the more money you make. You can ask to have the right to use it after it has been picket up. The only thing I would ask to have, is the right to sell it on my own site, witch it looks like threadless is willing to do. I can see why Threadless doesn't want it sold any where else, by other companies. It would compete with them, it's though out there and I would like Threadless to be strong and able, so they can pay well for the art they print. Make it sell it away, make it sell it away that's a commercial artist.

BlancaJP
1 design submitted - Score now!
andyg said:

I don't see how having artists signing additional agreements to have a previously selected design printed on other items can really be that time consuming.

Have you ever done work like this ? paperwork, answering e-mails, filing them, looking up things, in short the life and TIME sink hole of the world. I think you never have, that's why you can't imagine it. I hope you never have to, but please don't call people that do that work liars when they tell you it really is very time consuming.

andyg
BlancaJP said:
andyg said:

I don't see how having artists signing additional agreements to have a previously selected design printed on other items can really be that time consuming.

Have you ever done work like this ? paperwork, answering e-mails, filing them, looking up things, in short the life and TIME sink hole of the world. I think you never have, that's why you can't imagine it. I hope you never have to, but please don't call people that do that work liars when they tell you it really is very time consuming.

I'm pretty sure a big company like Threadless can handle this kind of work... the same way they did for years before the website changed.

Also, if signing 100% of the rights away to your work doesn't bother you at all and your only motivation with creating artwork is to make as much money as you can, then you and I just have a difference of opinion.

Ryder
1 design submitted - Score now!

i've never read the new contract because i haven't had a print under the new system... but i definitely used to love the old contract because of how many rights i kept of my work...

Morkki
1 design submitted - Score now!

Why exactly should selling designs to Threadless be any different than any other work? I don't get back the hours spent at my job. Everything I create there becomes the company's property. So getting $2000 or even $500 for a few hours of work is a pretty sweet deal. To me it just sounds like you're trying to eat and keep the same cake.

The only slightly iffy thing is the sublicensing. I don't mind Threadless putting my designs on anything and everything with their name on it but I might want to have say when other companies are involved.

opifan64

I'm kind of in agreement with andyg on this. The all encompassing contract might be discouraging to some artists and make them think twice about submitting stuff. As great as Threadless is, one of the nice things about submitting work in the past was that you retained the copyright outside of its use on apparel. With the number of POD sites now, and other sites like Fab popping up, it's potential quite onerous to sign over complete rights and not be able to sell prints or iPhone cases on other sites (excluding society6).

opifan64
Morkki said:

Why exactly should selling designs to Threadless be any different than any other work? I don't get back the hours spent at my job. Everything I create there becomes the company's property. So getting $2000 or even $500 for a few hours of work is a pretty sweet deal. To me it just sounds like you're trying to eat and keep the same cake.

The only slightly iffy thing is the sublicensing. I don't mind Threadless putting my designs on anything and everything with their name on it but I might want to have say when other companies are involved.

The point being is that it's a significant modification to the previous contract... so it was different. If the contract had always been this way then there wouldn't be any point in arguing about it.

skaw
skaw profile pic Staff
andyg said:

While Threadless has expanded the types of products it prints on over the years, the frequency of these new items and the amount of artists involved with each doesn't seem that overwhelming to me.

It's less about what we release on our site and more about working with partners. As we work with more and more partners to bring Threadless artists more exposer and commercial opportunities, we're finding that we need the rights to the design up front in order to make the deal happen. A lot of these are really long-term deals with big lead times that you'll start to see becoming larger and more meaningful over the coming years. But as I said, we also found a way for the artist to still be able to do other things with their design by licensing the design back from us for free when they want to.

Morkki
1 design submitted - Score now!

If you want to sell prints, all you have to do is notify Threadless about it.

opifan64
Morkki said:

If you want to sell prints, all you have to do is notify Threadless about it.

Not true... not on a site they don't have a partnership with (like society6). I've asked them about it. You can probably sell them yourself through Etsy or something. I don't know.

Musarter

The language does seem severe. That said, if you can still use the art on your portfolio and for self-promotion, signing the rights away for a reasonable fee seems fair to me. I, personally, am never going mass produce any of my art to sell. Theoretically, in the future I could make prints that would be nice to sell in a gallery show and I might have a problem with the contract there. Opifan64's point is valid though, and could become a headache if an artist makes it big enough to make a decent profit on a POD site.

For me the more troubling language is in regards to the artist, in a sense, becoming a Threadless product: Name and Likeness. Artist hereby irrevocably grants Threadless a non-exclusive and irrevocable right and license to use, portray, display and publish, Artist’s name, appearance, voice, likeness, and biographical information (collectively, “likeness”), in any and all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity.

I am not up on my legalese but language like "all media now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity" makes me in particularly uncomfortable.

opifan64

I had to take down most of my work from Redbubble for example. Not that I'm complaining or anything (far from it) just pointing out the limits of the sub-licensing.

mechanicalrobotpower

It makes a lot of sense letting Threadless do what they like with it, and the artist contacting when they would like to use it, rather than them contact you for every thing they would like, seeing as they would have to do it for hundreds of artists, where as the artist would probably need it once or twice.

I think artists get put out whenever it looks like rights are being compromised, and to a degree, they should. ..but from everything i've seen and witnessed here, the artist is always credited, ..and nobody (once again, that I've witnessed) has lost their ability to reclaim their work for another purpose.

I have no problem with this at all, but that may be because everything I submit here, I make specifically for here. Maybe it's also because I've yet to sign anything over.

opifan64

I don't think the new contract is particularly unreasonable or anything, as most sites do require you to give up copyright. It might be a case of being spoiled by the previous one. I do understand Skaw's points though, which make sense in the larger scheme of things.

BlancaJP
1 design submitted - Score now!
andyg said:<

Also, if signing 100% of the rights away to your work doesn't bother you at all and your only motivation with creating artwork is to make as much money as you can, then you and I just have a difference of opinion.

well yeah that is why I'm here so I could make money from my art.

I see that there are two types of people here. The people that are doing art for fun and the people that do it for a living or want to do it for a living and I'm with these words

Morkki said:

If you want to sell prints, all you have to do is notify Threadless about it.


Why exactly should selling designs to Threadless be any different than any other work?

[+duracell-]

What if an artist gets printed, then builds a time machine, then travels back to before the art was made? Do the threadrights still exist even though the art/products do not? I need to know these things 'cause important.

Morkki
1 design submitted - Score now!
opifan64 said:
Morkki said:

If you want to sell prints, all you have to do is notify Threadless about it.

Not true... not on a site they don't have a partnership with (like society6). I've asked them about it. You can probably sell them yourself through Etsy or something. I don't know.

OK, I didn't know that. I've never completely understood the Threadless/Society6 relationship to be honest. For example, can you have a print on sale on S6 if Threadless is also selling it as wall art?

andyg
Morkki said:

If you want to sell prints, all you have to do is notify Threadless about it.

What if Threadless decides to print your t-shirt design as "wall art?" Once you sign that contract, they can decide to sell your particular piece of art forever and they control what profit you'll make. Can you still sell prints of this same piece on your own site? Maybe the current people running the company would let you... but don't be surprised if the agreement changes in the future, or if someone who isn't a nice guy someday owns the copyright to your design.

I'd like to keep making t-shirts here, but why should I give up the rights to the design forever?

opifan64
Morkki said:
opifan64 said:
Morkki said:

If you want to sell prints, all you have to do is notify Threadless about it.

Not true... not on a site they don't have a partnership with (like society6). I've asked them about it. You can probably sell them yourself through Etsy or something. I don't know.

OK, I didn't know that. I've never completely understood the Threadless/Society6 relationship to be honest. For example, can you have a print on sale on S6 if Threadless is also selling it as wall art?

Sorry, Morkki, my post was a bit confusing. Threadless is partnered with society6 and from what I remember from a previous blog it's still okay to have stuff up there (just not t-shirts). I know selling stuff on Fab can be quite lucrative, so I was referring to sites like that (and Redbubble, etc). I think the trade-off of getting printed on Threadless is still worth it (to me anyway)

Morkki
1 design submitted - Score now!

If you don't want Threadless to own your design, don't sell it to them. I don't see a problem.

Morkki
1 design submitted - Score now!

Sorry, I should quote. That last one was to andyg. I mean... why should you cling on to designs? Just make new ones.

andyg
Morkki said:

If you don't want Threadless to own your design, don't sell it to them. I don't see a problem.

I see a problem. I never saw a problem up until this point when you knew that that you were only selling them the design for use on a t-shirt. Call me crazy, but the old system was a million times better for the artist. I guess it's time to move on.

jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Staff
1 design submitted - Score now!
Morkki said:

If you don't want Threadless to own your design, don't sell it to them. I don't see a problem.

THIS.

Also, here's some tissues

opifan64
Morkki said:

If you don't want Threadless to own your design, don't sell it to them. I don't see a problem.

It's a fair point. I would say that if a successful designer like andyg is expressing some reservations about the contract then perhaps it is a problem?... or at the very least something worth discussing. One of the cool things about Threadless as a company is that they've always addressed community concerns in a transparent way.

opifan64
jeffreyg said:
Morkki said:

If you don't want Threadless to own your design, don't sell it to them. I don't see a problem.

THIS.

Also, here's some tissues

haha

jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Staff
1 design submitted - Score now!
opifan64 said:

I would say that if a successful designer like andyg is expressing some reservations about the contract then perhaps it is a problem?

(?°?°??? ???

jeffreyg
jeffreyg profile pic Staff
1 design submitted - Score now!

oh right, andyg posted this!!

opifan64
jeffreyg said:
opifan64 said:

I would say that if a successful designer like andyg is expressing some reservations about the contract then perhaps it is a problem?

(?°?°??? ???

My point was just that if he's feeling discouraged from submitting new designs... that's something of an issue... right?

AlanBao

Essentially, the difference between the old contract and the current one is this:

  • The old contract claimed the exclusive rights to print the design on Threadless products, with the ownership of the design staying with the artist.

  • The new contract is a work-for-hire contract which claims full ownership of the design from the artist.

I'm gonna put my warm fuzzies for Threadless aside for a minute, and be very, very clear about what a work-for-hire contract means:

  1. You give up ALL copyrights and intellectual property rights to your work.

  2. Your client, not you, is the legal author of the work - your design becomes the sole property of the client.

  3. After you sign away your moral rights, your client has NO legal obligation to credit you as author of the work - if they do, then they do so at their leisure - you have no legal grounds to challenge them if they withhold credit.

  4. Your client can edit, appropriate, or change any part of your design. They own it. You have no legal grounds to protect the contents of your work.

  5. Your work can be given, sold, licensed and sublicensed to anyone, for any purpose at all, at the client's sole discretion. Once again: they own it. Completely.

In short, any work made under a work-for-hire agreement is LEGALLY NOT YOUR WORK. That is why I'm against them on principle, especially when applied to individual, personal artwork - these contracts disempower artists, who generally don't like to deal with the legal stuff to begin with, and leave them extremely vulnerable to being trapped and ripped off.

EZFL

This blog is not Classic andyg.

andyg

For the record, I have declined Threadless a few times when given the chance to sub-license some of my older designs to other companies or as wall art. If it's a design I'm really proud of, I don't feel good about losing the rights. If being reprinted again means I have to give up an old design, then I won't do it.

I've had 2 designs selected since the new artist agreement and those will be the last ones from me.

Andreas Mohacsy
andyg said:
Morkki said:

If you want to sell prints, all you have to do is notify Threadless about it.

Maybe the current people running the company would let you... but don't be surprised if the agreement changes in the future, or if someone who isn't a nice guy someday owns the copyright to your design.

The noble intentions of threadless are one thing but threadless are 100% legally in control of your art once the document is signed, this is a dangerous precedent.

Ideally (froma an artists perspective) wouldn't it be better not to sign away your rights at all and simply license the design to threadless???

Morkki
1 design submitted - Score now!

You make it sound like we're selling babies

Andreas Mohacsy
AlanBao said:

Essentially, the difference between the old contract and the current one is this:

  • The old contract claimed the exclusive rights to print the design on Threadless products, with the ownership of the design staying with the artist.

  • The new contract is a work-for-hire contract which claims full ownership of the design from the artist.

I'm gonna put my warm fuzzies for Threadless aside for a minute, and be very, very clear about what a work-for-hire contract means:

  1. You give up ALL copyrights and intellectual property rights to your work.

  2. Your client, not you, is the legal author of the work - your design becomes the sole property of the client.

  3. After you sign away your moral rights, your client has NO legal obligation to credit you as author of the work - if they do, then they do so at their leisure - you have no legal grounds to challenge them if they withhold credit.

  4. Your client can edit, appropriate, or change any part of your design. They own it. You have no legal grounds to protect the contents of your work.

  5. Your work can be given, sold, licensed and sublicensed to anyone, for any purpose at all, at the client's sole discretion. Once again: they own it. Completely.

In short, any work made under a work-for-hire agreement is LEGALLY NOT YOUR WORK. That is why I'm against them on principle, especially when applied to individual, personal artwork - these contracts disempower artists, who generally don't like to deal with the legal stuff to begin with, and leave them extremely vulnerable to being trapped and ripped off.

i like it when things are explained so clearly!

valorandvellum

Shirt.Woot has (or they used to have... I don't know if they changed it recently) two different contracts you could opt for. One was a limited one where you kept more rights, but waived royalties. The other let Shirt.Woot have all rights, and meant that you could potentially make more money from their site. I wonder if Threadless could do something like this if artists didn't want to partake in the partnership offers? Then Threadless would also immediately know which designs are up for grabs for partnerships and which aren't.

Andreas Mohacsy

the hard thing about these conversations is that i always feel those arguing the artists perspective often come off as sounding anti-threadless which couldn't be further from the truth.

Personally i just want threadless to be as awesome for the artists as it is for the owners/workers/customers. After all the more artist friendly it is, the more awesome artists, the more awesome art, the bigger and better the community, a better product, the more LOVE

AlanBao
Andreas Mohacsy said:

i like it when things are explained so clearly!

Not sure if that was sarcasm, but I'm gonna take it genuinely. :)

Seriously though, AndyG can put my name on that petition. I love Threadless no matter what, but as a rule, I think this kind of contract is just bad for artists.

And looking at the flak the original poster has been getting, can we just make sure that our brand-loyalty doesn't sweep a legit concern under the rug? C'mon, doods.

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