An artist’s work is more than just the image they create whether it is digitally or traditionally made. It is also the rights to use that image for print, publication, advertising. Artists need to be aware of copyright and how valuable it can be to them as an income stream in addition to the making of art.
Every artist I know has at least one image they have created that they could have sold 100 times if it was still available. By keeping good digital files of all your images you can create an image bank that you can then license out for money long after the original has been sold.
Passive income streams are not just for digital artists. Traditional artists can and should do the same with their work. Just make sure when you enter into agreements with people for gallery representation or commissions you retain the rights to your image. I have licensed my images for use as decoration in hotel rooms, books, magazines, corporate brochures, movies and television shows. In some cases the compensation was equal to the price of the original painting.
I have recently heard of problems with people thinking they could license images without the artist’s permission just because they sell the artists originals in a gallery or act as the artist agent in other capacities. This is not the case and US copyright is very clear on who owns the rights to an image. All rights are retained by the image creator unless they specifically give up those rights in writing. Here is a link to the government website followed by the actual clause.
202: Ownership of a copyright, or of any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including the copy in which the work is first fixed, does not of itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object; nor, in the absence of an agreement, does transfer of ownership of a copyright or of any exclusive rights under a copyright convey property rights in any material object.
With the slowed economy galleries and other artist venues are taking advantage of artists by not compensating them for the use of their images. Artists are being stupid not insisting on payment for the use of their image in any for-profit display. Artists need to insist on payment for use of their work and to not do so is hurting the environment for professional artists.