Illustrators upset over Google's invitation to contribute free art

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The NY Times reports that Google recently asked dozens of illustrators to provide art skins for its Chrome browser. They offered a fee of nothing. Well-known illustrators who were invited, like Gary Taxali, Melinda Beck, and Joe Ciardiello, all turned Google down.

Google's two-part explanation is that the artists will get great exposure, and that Google has done it before:

In a statement responding to questions, Google said that the project was modeled after a similar one last year for iGoogle, a personalized home page, where artists and companies (including Jeff Koons, Bob Dylan and Gucci) contributed images to be used as skins.

“While we don’t typically offer monetary compensation for these projects,” the statement said, “through the positive feedback that we have heard thus far we believe these projects provide a unique and exciting opportunity for artists to display their work in front of millions of people.”

But exposure often is a given for illustrators, who are rankled that Google is asking them to work for exposure alone.

I'm one of the illustrators who contributed art last year for iGoogle. (My art, above, is called "Adventure in Lollipopland") I was not directly compensated, but Google did give a very substantial donation in my name to a charity of my choosing (I chose the Jewish Family Services' SOVA food pantries program). I was very happy with this arrangement. It sounds like Google skipped the charity-donation part this time around, though, because it wasn't mentioned in the NY Times story.

Use Their Work Free? Some Artists Say No to Google