Visual artists losing out on online revenue, survey finds

May 31, 2016

Visual artists need easier solutions to take advantage of new revenue opportunities offered by the online environment, a new survey of Australian and New Zealand artists has found.

The survey, Voice of the Artist, conducted by research firm AMR, shows that while 90% of the 1,020 artists surveyed have had their work reproduced (with 71% of artists with their work published online), only 5% receive income from copyright royalties.

The largest survey of its kind also found one of the main barriers as to why artists aren’t generating copyright royalties via online channels is because they don’t know how to easily track and monitor the use of their work across the internet.

More than half the artists surveyed (56%) think it’s too hard to protect the integrity of their work online and 57% are not aware how much they’re being infringed.  Of the 20% that were aware of infringements, 54% said the infringement happened online, but 58% are unsure what to do about it.

“There is no doubt the online environment offers unprecedented levels of access and exposure for artists, but publishing online shouldn’t mean a trade-off to earning any revenue when third parties want to use their work,” Adam Suckling, CEO of Copyright Agency | Viscopy said.

“What we need now are more services that make it easy for artists to monitor and manage their images online, without needing to know things like how to encrypt image files or add metadata, digital watermarks or other restrictions,” he said.

“There is enormous potential for new solutions to be built to address this gap in the market and this could make a real difference to how the industry could evolve in the short-term future, and that’s exciting,” he said.

“This survey also shows the importance for organisations such as the Copyright Agency | Viscopy to educate artists about their rights and responsibilities in the digital environment.”

Copyright Agency | Viscopy is currently working on developing a global permission technology which will allow someone who wants to copy an image or piece of text to simply click to find out who owns it, whether the owner wants to be paid for its use and if so, how much they want. A simple transaction can follow. The technology is being trialled through a partnership with UK not-for-profit The Copyright Hub.

More in-depth discussion about how we can better use technology to respect creators’ rights and strengthen the future of visual arts economies in Australia and around the world will be explored by academics, publishers, artists and curators at a half day event in partnership with Vivid Sydney, Voice of the Artist: Age of the Image, held on Friday, 10 June from 8.30am-1.00pm at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney. Tickets for Voice of the Artist: Age of the Image Tickets are on sale now

The survey was the first phase of Copyright Agency | Viscopy’s three-part project, Voice of the Artist, which set out to explore visual artist’s attitudes to, and understanding of, copyright in today’s digital world.

Vivid Sydney is the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas. Now in its eighth year, the event is owned, managed and produced by Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency. Visit for more.

For further information about the survey or the Voice of the Artist project, go to

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