What are Reprographic Rights?

What are Reprographic Rights?

As the creators of original works of art, artists have the right to decide when and where their works are reproduced or copied. Reprographic rights are a type of reproduction right. The most common example is photocopying. Anytime a library patron uses a photocopy machine to copy protected works (whether text or visual art), the author’s reprographic right is being exploited.

But reprographic rights include much more than just photocopying. Reprographic rights also encompass, among other things, copying and storing creative works through microfilm, microfiche, computer and digital technologies. For many years, visual artists paid little attention to managing the reprographic rights in their works. But as the use of digital technologies by art creators and users rapidly increases, artists are beginning to recognize the importance of their reprographic rights.

How are Reprographic Rights Administered?

When an artist works with a client, rights are usually managed under an individual license or contract. For example, under the contract an artist may decide to grant “one-time, North American print rights” for a specific project. But managing reprographic rights is more difficult. For example, how would an artist living in San Francisco know if a library user in New York were photocopying her work without permission? Monitoring such secondary uses becomes even more difficult in today’s global market. To address these and other problems (such as the large number of works and artists), reprographic rights are often managed on a “collective” basis.

Under a collective administration approach, a single organization has the responsibility for monitoring and enforcing rights and for collecting and distributing royalties to the rightsholder. In the United States, for example, the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) grants licenses to universities, libraries, corporations and other users for the photocopying of published materials. In the year 2000, the CCC returned $57 million to rightsholders (mostly publishers) for photocopying of printed pages in books, journals and other printed materials.

The collection and distribution of royalties for use of reprographic rights abroad is accomplished under a network of “reciprocal agreements” between Reprographic Rights Organizations (RROs) around the world. Under these agreements, artists and writers outside of the United States annually receive compensation for the use of their reprographic rights. Regrettably, without an organization advocating the interests of professional illustrators, U.S. artists rarely, if ever, have received any compensation for the exploitation of their reprographic rights.

Excerpted from “Reprographic Rights and the Visual Artist” by Dr. Michael Shapiro, Esq. 2001