License art and protect your rights at Craft Shows & Festivals

October 2010
How to license art and protect your rights at the same time?

Artists don't just have a burning need to create, they also need to license their artwork in order to earn royalties and make a living. An artist selling a painting once can only earn so much; but by licensing their art work to a Manufacturer to be used on different products, or by licensing their paintings to a Printer to make editions, the quarterly royalties can really add up. Artists wanting to go down the licensing path to make money need to protect their rights and their Intellectual Property in the following ways:

Create the right kind of art

Many Artists adhere to the principal of  'Create it and they will come'. Not true, only a small handful of Artists who create drawings, digital art and paintings are successful in the licensing game. For art to be licensed it needs to have a commercial base or mass audience appeal. Artists need to bear in mind that 80% of consumer goods purchased in the USA are done so by women over 30. Art created around the themes of animals; country scenes; angels; fairies; landscapes; children are always what licensing Agent's look for to put on household items such as bedding, lamps and clothes along with creation of mass art paintings found in department stores.

While Artists may wish to create something truly unique to appeal to a 'niche' licensing agent this is rarely a good first step and you could be bankrupt before you ever license a thing. Artists need to create their drawings/paintings and digital art work in an industry recognized formula that includes using standard Canvas, Paper or Board in either a 9 x 12 or 18 x 24 format and make sure their art work goes to the edges, which makes it easiest for manufacturers to reproduce.

Copyright your work

Believe it or not, thousands of Artists each year seek out licensing agreements without ever having copyrighted their Intellectual Property ! Even worse, many overseas companies who 'license' art work never check themselves! This often results in the art work being duplicated by another source, the original Artist not receiving any royalties and the licensee such as the Manufacturer being sued by someone who claims the work is theirs! Having a Copyright is essential before perusing any licensing avenues.

Copyright your website

This is a huge mistake that Artists make when creating an e-portfolio and website to display their art works. Websites can be copyrighted in the US, and Artists can further protect their Intellectual property and protect their rights by installing Copy scape on their website. The only thing that cannot be Copyrighted is the website name. Under ICANN the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an artist is protected by the fact that the name of a website like can only be designated once, giving you the right to sell your domain name at a later time if you so wish.


While many Artists who copyright their work do have Licensors approach them from perusing open Government records there is no guarantee. Artists need to be proactive in seeking our licensing agreements for their artwork and having an on-line presence is essential. Having a website and e-portfolio is not enough, Artists need to network by joining on-line artists groups, having a face book presence, and directing traffic to their website through followers on twitter. Joining both on-line and real world Art Associations is helpful in meeting like minded people and getting personal leads to potential Li censor's and licensing agreements.

Don't license on your own

Many Artists go directly to Manufacturers, Printing Companies and Promoters without ever hiring the services of an Art Li censor. Running around anyone and everyone you think could use your art work usually ensures two things; very quick burnout and the risk of being ripped off financially. While some Artists are commercially savvy money wise most are not, and going alone means you make pick a potential licensor who is not in the best financial position, or pick someone who has you sign the rights to your art work away for far too long a term for far too little money. Approaching an Art Li censor by showing them your e-portfolio of commercially correct work will make it easy for you to become a client, and then let them find you real honest avenues of licensing that will protect your Intellectual Property and generate quarterly royalties.

For an Artist protecting your work does not end at the US Copyright Office; continued vigilance is needed to ensure your work is not stolen or used inappropriately by Publishers, Manufacturers and Promotional Companies whose first priority is their own profits. Creating good commerical art, copyrighting your work and website and networking are all essential in creating licensing leads to future profits. Working with a licensing Agent that advocates for you and your art can be proactive in the same way a Sports or Acting Agent works; truly indispensable to your future success.


What about aeller permits and Sales tax?
I am very new to this busiiness and have only sold $4.50 so far this year.
Thank you.

By Victoria M. Lembcke on October 6, 2010

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