Google has been contacting prominent artists to invite them to share their art for the new web browser, Chrome. According to the New York Times, Google has been asking artists to share their art for no fee. The artists would allow use of their art for “skins” that Chrome users will be able to use to customize their browser… for zero fee to the artist.
Is the exposure of one’s art displayed to millions of people enough compensation?
There are a lot of variables that have to be considered when answering this. There is no absolute right nor wrong answer because the outcome will vary depending on the artist, the user and the actual use. What is the actual exposure and how will that use and exposure benefit everyone involved? In this case, Google is asking to offer high quality customized skins for their new product to their entire user base. For Google, they gain unique art for their free product. For Chrome users, they can personalize their browser with unique art. For the artists, the benefit is the exposure to hopefully millions.
I am more concerned about who this program is open to and how credit given. If the program is open to anyone wanting to get involved, that’s one situation. I love the Google free concept. They offer tools and services to users for no fee, opportunities that previously, in some cases, cost hundreds of dollars. Think about the Google stats program Analytics, previously Urchin – a high class software now available to anyone that wants to sign up and use it. This type of business offering is similar to the Open Source mentality of programming- Create works that are shared at no cost for the good of the whole community. Being a part of that type of community is a fantastic concept in my opinion.
Keep in mind, Google does earn compensation for use of the art, it’s an indirect compensation. Payment for offering these Google software freebies is the data collected from the use of these products. Google then utilizes the data to improve their tools and services, free or otherwise. Their actual revenue comes from their advertising networks, commercial tools and services, not directly from their freebies. I think it’s a brilliant concept and benefits many people in many directions. Should the art be a free part of this or a contracted, paid for effort? Depends on the artist’s goals and needs.
Just because a company asking to use art isn’t charging for whatever the art is used on, doesn’t mean the art should be free to use.
If the Chrome skins program is only open to those that are invited, then the spirit of the sharing is lost. Using artwork for free would then be more taking advantage of the generosity of the artist community for the sake of bettering a product, free or not.
Art should never be assumed as a commodity without a price tag, however sometimes the compensation is not an actual check. Exposure isn’t always enough but I think it all depends on the circumstances and the motivation for everone involved.
For me, if I were considering involvement in the program, I’d have to see the fine print. The agreement would have to include visible credit for my work so anyone that liked what they saw could easily find more of what I’ve created.
I create art to share it with others yet we can’t survive on giving away freebies.
On a closing note, please remember, no matter the use or the fee requested, always ask the artist before you use it.
What do you think?
Is exposure enough payment to allow use of your art?