Non-Compete Agreements in the Artworld?
Imagine an artist working for another artist (typically called a studio assistant) and that same artist being asked to sign an agreement where she agrees to not work for another artist within a number of years dictated by that same agreement. Or a curator being asked to sign a similar agreement, where he agrees to not work for a competing museum or art institution. And what about an art instructor? Or writer agreeing not to write for a competing art journal?
Does it happen? You bet, albeit probably not to the extent that it does in other industries. But that might change.
A few weeks ago I read an article in the NY Times, where noncompete agreements were being signed by yoga instructors, chefs, and camp counselors, so why not workers in the art world? There are good reasons for noncompetes, such as keeping employees from walking with valuable proprietary information and intellectual property, not to mention having been trained and prepped by employer one only to lose that employee to employer two.
But there are also arguments against, primarily that most workers, certainly in the art world, do not have the bargaining power to negotiate NCAs. They also, in general, don’t have the financial capacity to hire attorneys to negotiate and review their NCAs. Lastly, it may hurt job mobility, forcing many workers to stay put rather than be unable to find a similar job with a so-called “competitor.”
As the articles below point out, there are some states that don’t enforce NCAs, such as California (roll your eyes), where as others, such as the great state of Texas place only a few limits on them.
Since that NY Times article a few weeks back, the Times has also had a “room for debate” on this topic, as well as an op-ed. There’s also this well-penned argument by Peter Cappelli, professor of Management at the Wharton School.