AMI’s Position on Speculative Work

NoSpecAMI encourages medical illustrators and animators to engage in best business practices by entering into negotiation to secure a contractual agreement with ethical terms and equitable compensation in advance of accepting work. Accordingly, AMI strongly encourages medical illustrators and animators to avoid the risks of speculative work.

What is spec work?

Speculative work, or spec work, is any creative work created for a client as a precondition to the possibility of securing paid work. Not all unpaid work is speculative work. For example, pro bono work is volunteer work donated without expectation of payment. Speculative work is widely viewed as unethical because it compromises the professional relationship between an illustrator and a client, preys on vulnerable illustrators (especially those new to the field), and the speculative arrangement rarely realizes any profits or future work for the illustrator. In the end, the artist is simply providing free work.

What are the risks of spec work?

There are potential legal risks to both parties. Depending on the language of the speculative work agreement, legal risks can arise about the disposition of copyright and the terms of use. Speculative work agreements often have fine print imposing “work-for-hire” to transfer the illustrator’s copyright to the prospective client. It may also prevent the illustrator from
licensing that work to a future paying client.

Clients risk compromised quality. For clients it may seem like a good idea to have many artists compete for their project for free, but in reality there is a high risk of receiving low quality work. Limiting fair compensation limits an illustrator’s ability to create high-quality work. Both parties stand to lose time and money based on the speculative work model.

Medical illustrators/animators are disadvantaged by the spec model. Highly-trained professionals have invested a great deal of time, education and expertise to acquire and maintain high-end artistic skills and ensure the highest quality of accurate information is conveyed in their visual art. Without adequate compensation, continued professional development and business sustainability is not possible.

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AMI Policy

Speculative work (spec work) requests are antithetical to the high standards of professionalism the AMI and its members strive to maintain. While the decision to create visual art under speculative work is ultimately up to the individual, the AMI understands speculative work devalues visual art and ultimately undermines the quality of the professional visual art marketplace. Therefore, the AMI strongly urges medical illustrators and animators to engage in fair negotiations to secure contract terms that support proper compensation and clearly define rights and usage prior to starting any work.

In order to support a healthy marketplace the AMI will not propagate unethical proposals to members under the aegis of AMI. The AMI will not promote or post job requests, notices, contests or other solicitations that are speculative, including but not limited to:

• Solicitations to complete specific assignments, free-of-charge or for a nominal fee, in the hopes of winning a commissioned project

• Solicitations to create tutorials about specific skills and techniques with the intention of monetizing the tutorial without payment to the creator

• Calls for Entry to crowdsourcing contests or competitions that seek the free usage of work, include work-for-hire terms or copyright transfers, or other unsustainable business practices, as the price of competing for recognition or a prize of some kind