Professional Ethics for Freelance Animation Jobs

Professional ethics for freelance animation jobs are potentially complex, although most artists are well aware of the ethical requirements of their trade. In the animation business, ethics can be a real professional issue, and lack of them can be a real professional disaster.

Ethical Issues in Freelance Animation Jobs

These are the ethical issues in freelance animation jobs:

  • Intellectual property: There’s a basic need to respect the work and IP rights of others at all times. Never use anyone else’s material in your work. The only exceptions are public domain materials, and make sure they are actually public domain, not owned content. Remember at all times to be aware of the need to avoid infringement of copyright. 
  • Image content: This is another form of IP, but it’s also a rather blurry issue. There are often clashes regarding use of materials which “looks like” other people’s work. These incidents are often quite innocent. Whether it looks like someone else’s work is usually a matter of interpretation, and it can leave a stain on your reputation.
  • Nondisclosure: Many animation studios, particularly the big name studios, employ tight security on their productions. Security involves storylines, storyboard materials and any information about the work. Nondisclosure does mean non-disclosure. (The real leaks about these productions are deliberate, usually from the publicists, not from the production teams.)
  • Business ethics: If you’re using subcontractors for your animation work, particularly on major projects, you’re ethically obliged to provide fair pay and contractual arrangements.

Professional Ethics for Freelance Animation Jobs in Practice

You’re a freelance contractor for an advertising agency, doing a basic color cartoon job for a TV commercial. You’ve been given a script and a series of scenes. The animation character is a talking tin can, a standard part of this firm’s advertising. You do an animated yellow tin can with the client’s logo on it. Your subcontractor does the background, a few frames of an urban winter street scene in gray scale, with the idea being the hot food contrasts with the winter outside.

The subcontractor does a great job with good detail, very quickly, and you’re ready to roll. You send the finished product off to the client to add the voice-over. The furious client calls you and wants to know if you’re aware that your background infringes on a major Hollywood movie which happens to be one of his favorites, and that you won’t be getting paid for the work. You’re also out of a contract.

The ethics here are that even if you’re personally innocent of any attempt to mislead, you’ve missed the obvious requirement for copyright content checks. You are deemed responsible for your materials. There aren’t any real excuses, and if the cartoon had aired, you could have been in worse shape because of the copyright infringement. Both you and your client could have been out of business.

The moral of the story: Check your content, and be sure you can accurately source any materials from third parties. Your ethical obligations start with your own work.