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Can I sell a photo as a Limited Edition print if I have sold it as an open edition in the past?

I want to start selling some of my prints as "limited editions". However, some of them that I want to use as limited edition I may have sold previously.

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[Do keep in mind that opinions on legal matters from strangers on the internet should not be used as a substitute for legal advice from a professional familiar with the field in the markets you plan to sell products in. I'm not a lawyer.]

The specifics of limited edition items comes down to the 'terms and conditions' you release the edition under.

If I take a photo this week, print up 10 copies of it, stamp them with "First week of March LIMITED EDITION!" with a statement that there are only 10 copies in this edition, then printing an 11th copy that I stamp with the same "First week of March LIMITED EDITION" logo would fall under breach of contract/false advertising type laws and land me in hot water.

However, if next week I print off another 10 copies of that photo, and clearly label them as "Second week of March, LIMITED EDITION!", then that is a new series of images in a new edition of the print.

Typical expectation would be that there are some distinct aspects to a given edition of a print - Different paper, different editing, size, etc, that set it apart from other editions, but as long as you do not step on what you've defined an edition and its limits as, then I'm not sure what legal issue you could run into.

Of course, there often isn't much to stop people from suing you over things anyway, but the clearer cut and defined your lines between editions of prints are, the less ground people have to stand on, and the less likely they are to complain that they got something different from what they expected.

A clearly defined edition might look something like "Printed during X time period, on Y medium, with Z process". Including information on how/why the edition differs from previous printings of the image aids in reinforcing the expectation in the buyer that other editions/prints exist, but are not included in THIS edition or impact its limit. - If the edition doesn't clearly state that there are and will be NO other prints of this photo in existence, and goes out of its way to acknowledge others do/may exist, then a customer can be expected to understand what they're buying into.

So while there is nothing technically stopping you from making multiple clearly defined 'limited' editions, it isn't the sort of thing that flies well with buyers if you abuse it.

  • A formal "2019, Limited Edition" run of prints at a larger size, better paper, or more detailed edit than you've previously printed the photo at, later combined with a "2029, Limited edition, retrospective anniversary re-edit" might fly without ruffling too many feathers,

but

  • "Monday Morning limited Edition" won't pair well with "Monday Afternoon 'limited' edition, because the first batch sold better than I expected..." and is probably a good way to get yourself canned as a serious artist.
  • Thank you. That gives me a better idea of the LE process and what i should and should not do. – Mike O'Shell Mar 8 at 21:23

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