Most common mistakes Artists and Crafters make when licensing their work

November 2010

Many artists are under the misconceived impression that their work is solely about creating original works of art. However, the artist's job is not solely about artistic creation. When the time comes to seek exposure and monetary remuneration for their artistic work the artists' role becomes an amalgamated role that encompasses that of the lawyer, the artistic agent and the businessman.

Previous to securing financial success the artist needs to endorse a licensing agreement that outlines the conditions and rights that the company is interested in purchasing. This licensing agreement needs to be handled with extreme care because once it is endorsed the rights granted to the publishing company cannot be revoked.

Here are the most common mistakes that artists should most definitely avoid when licensing their work:

1. Do not sign the licensing agreement without ensuring that all the terms and clauses are perfectly understood and agreed upon.

Most artists excel in their artistic prowess but lack the keen eye of the lawyer when it comes to agreements. Unfortunately several artists often make the terrible mistake to go ahead and sign the licensing agreement and naively hope that everything will work out for the best. However, artists should take a step back from their enthusiasm in publishing or displaying their work and carefully evaluate the terms of the licensing agreement.

Some agreements might very well look promising but they could also strip the artist of his or her exclusive copyright pertaining to their work. Licensing agreements often include terms that grant the publishing company full reproduction rights without any future remuneration to the artist. If need be artists should schedule a meeting with an artistic agent or a lawyer to go over all the terms listed in the licensing agreement and carefully evaluate what the company is actually proposing in its agreement.

2. What artists need to know about a licensing agreement

A licensing agreement stipulates the rights that the artist is granting the company on his or her work. This means that by signing the agreement the artist is granting the company the rights to use, reproduce and distribute his or her artistic works that are specified in the agreement within a specified time period and within specified conditions.

These conditions need to be read with extreme diligence to ensure that the artist does not grant the company exclusive rights that cannot be revoked.

3. The salient terms that a licensing agreement should include

It is crucial that the licensing agreement outlines the specific works that will be reproduced and how these works will be reproduced. On every reproduction of the artist's works the copyright statement should clearly display the artist's name as the sole copyright owner. The agreement should also clearly state the artist's future royalties and the royalty percentage that is to be paid to the artist.

Lastly the artist should ensure that the contract reserves the artist's right to terminate the agreement if the company does not abide by the terms stipulated in the said agreement.

4. Terms in the agreement that an artist should never endorse

Artists should beware of agreements that grant the company the copyright of any of their works or full reproduction rights of specified works.

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