The Top 5 Licensing Resources for Artists & Crafters

April 2011

What is artistic licensing? In its encyclopedic definition, and in its broad sense, it is the ability of an artist to take certain liberties when performing or when writing or when creating. In other words, it is understood that it is okay for a artist, a writer, or someone engaged in creative endeavors, to be allowed a certain amount of freedom in the pursuit of their art.

As an example, a novelist is writing a historical novel around some commonly known facts. While the facts about the actual event must be accurate according to what is recorded, it is permissible for the writer to fill in details that could have happened and are relative to the overall story that is being told. This is an artistic license given to novelists. The work is not passed off as factual or history, but is fiction.

Examples of abstract artistic licensing processes concern themselves with ways in which artist feel free to create.

1. Performance artists have a license to interpret the character they are portraying as they see it. If this should run foul of what others believe, they still are protected under the law for their performance, provided of course, they do not in their particular  interpretation, violate some other law.

2. Musicians are allowed to be free in their musical interpretations of the works of others. Although several orchestral arrangements may be performing the works of Bach, as one example, the conductor may insist on a few variations. This is allowable, and is understood as being genuine ways of using an artistic license, to improve upon a performance.

3. In visual art, painting and sculpting in particular, the artist may render a likeness of a famous person in any way that they see fit. This may meet with disapproval by others, but unless it violates some other law prohibiting such and such actions, the painter cannot be sued. They may be shunned, denied the right to show their work by private and public concerns, but according to the law protecting artistic licensing, it is legal.

4. Teachers may or not may have the right to teach their students according to some innate means within them that allows them to use artistic expression to relate to a student, and broadly speaking the school system determines the methodology. But, an artist is an artist is an artist and a teacher may use - within reason - their own interpretation of subject matter that will instill a love of learning for their students. This is the license to use whatever skills a person has according to the rights of their inheritance.

5. Writers have an artistic license to create their works according to their skill levels, their creative abilities and their need to be original in their assumptions and their fantasies. As long as these are labeled fictional, they are not infringing on the rights of others. When works of a general nature have been so used by the public to the extent that they are, in fact, public property, they can be used without even crediting the original source. An example of this is the one liners of Benjamin Franklin. Although, it is still okay to give him credit even though the thought or advice is well known and has become a household word.

Concrete licensing

The above is about abstract theories concerning artistic licensing. What about the concrete realities of actually licensing artistic creations? How do those who have created works of art use their art commercially? How do artists allow the commercial world to use their names in association with their manufacturing processes? To answer these questions we need to take in the process of how art is licensed. In other words, how does fine art evolve into commercial art?

These are secondary considerations and do not lend themselves to the topic. However, actual licensing of one's art, one's name for commercial purposes is big business and the process of going about finding out how to get involved more relates to advertising than it does to actual art. Each manufacturer that endorses a certain singer or performer in his business to sell clothes  or sporting equipment probably have their own methods of securing these rights.

Readers wanting more information on these topic probably will find information from Google, or some other search engine, with these words typed into the box: Celebrity endorsements; advertising licensing, artistic endorsements, or some such.



Good Morning:
I consider myself an artist, I paint.
I am totally new in this matter and I will like to participate in a show to market my art and crafts.
I am wondering about the license and legal steps I have to consider for this, please help me find my way.
your comments will be greatly appreciated.

By Alejandra Garces on June 30, 2016

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