The internet and social media are proving to be invaluable resources for independent artists looking to expose their work not only to the general public, but also to larger companies who may desire to license their art for fees or royalties down the road. After all, the beautiful designs behind the home décor, prints, decals and products you see in stores or online have to come from somewhere, right? Those artists might as well be you if you’re ready to jump into the licensing game!
Here’s what you need to know when negotiating a licensing agreement with a third-party.
Understanding Copyright Protection
The issue of copyright protection can be confusing to artists. A copyright starts the moment a creative work is fixed in a tangible medium (recorded in some physical medium, whether on paper, audio tape or computer disk, etc.). The artist doesn’t need to apply for rights or do anything special to receive this protection. But, in order to enforce your copyright in a situation where someone else steals your work without permission, you will need to have your copyright federally registered with the US Copyright Office. So, before you start the process of licensing your work to others you’ll want to make sure to copyright your art in order to avoid your work from being stolen or used without proper compensation.
If you have a significant amount of artwork that needs protecting or sets of work, a qualified copyright attorney can help you prioritize your intellectual property needs so that you are using your time and resources in an efficient way.
Get Familiar with Licensing Terms
Once your work is federally registered with the United States Copyright Office, you’ll want to become familiar with general licensing terms should another company or person seek to license your work. Those terms include the following:
- Royalties – Companies will generally offer artists royalties on their work, ranging anywhere from 4-30%, depending on the type of product. Because the amount of royalties you can receive is almost always negotiable, it can be helpful to work through this process with a qualified intellectual property attorney who can help secure the most appropriate percentage in royalty fees.
- Exclusivity vs. Licensing – Some companies will ask for exclusivity or that you turn over ownership of your art to the company. Depending on the particular artist, we may advise against doing this. Whatever your situation, be sure to read the fine print in your contracts and of course, work with an attorney to ensure that you are not locking yourself into an agreement that goes beyond a typical licensing arrangement.
- Term Limits – You’ll also want to negotiate an end to your licensing arrangement. The term limit of your agreement may range anywhere from a few months to a few years. Either way, at the end of the term, the company or person licensing your art will generally have the choice to renew the agreement or cancel. Here too your attorney can help you settle on the most favorable contract length based on your specific goals and needs.
It’s always great to have your art discovered and have larger companies jump on board to license your work, but always be sure to enter any licensing negotiations with caution and always speak to an attorney before you sign a contract or enter into any kind of formal relationship with a third party. If you need assistance doing just that, we invite you to contact our intellectual property law firm at 888-666-0062 to schedule a consultation.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney.