Artists are compelled to create, but they also need to eat. Licensing any or all of their art work to commercial entities is how many artists survive. While many artists seek out licensing agreements to Manufacturers, Promoters, Galleries, Trade Shows and Clothing Design companies only a small percentage are successful at licensing. There are many pitfalls for Artists involved in licensing, but with a little knowledge of the common mistakes Artists make, an Artist can go on to be successful.
Common mistakes artists make in licensing:
No licensing agent
After the copyright process is completed and a public record is issued, many Artists do find themselves inundated with offers from companies who find them through the Government database. This may seem great at first; Artists get lulled into a false sense of future financial security. After all, if companies are searching them out, they must be good right?
Wrong! There are many dubious, financially insolvent, and just morally corrupt companies of many natures who seek out Artists work only to rip them off. Artists in real financial need may not practice due diligence in researching a companies history, its marketing or to whom and where they sell products, and they end up getting burned. Hiring a Licensing Agent means that not only is a lot of grunt work taken out of finding avenues of licensing, but also contracts are properly prepared, set dates of royalty cheques are agreed upon, and an Artist does retain control of their original creations. Going alone in the licensing game is never a good idea.
No specification of which art will be used
When an Artist is approached by a company wishing to use their art work they often make a crucial mistake; sending in all of their portfolio to be perused. A company makes an offer over wanting to use a ‘couple of pictures’ for transfer onto a new bedding design and will pay $500 every four months. Many Artists jump at a chance like this, without getting written specifications of which particular pictures will be used. If a contract doesn’t detail that four pictures will be used, an Artist may indeed find themselves getting paid for just one. Specifics of exactly which pictures will be used are incredibly important for legal binding licensing agreements to be enforced.
No specification of which products your art will appear on
Let’s face it there are some wierdos out there and no Artist wants to find that the lovely oil painting they did of two children playing in a meadow is going to be the art work for the DVD cover of a dubious adult film. Not only should licensing agreements state what art will be used, it also needs to state which products it will appear on. It is not enough for an Artist to make sure they are getting paid for all pictures/photo’s/drawings used, they need to know where! This gives you a chance to say no, if it is something that contradicts with moral, religious and political beliefs, and should be detailed explicitly in a licensing agreement, preferably prepared by a Licensing Agent. Artists who fail to do this not only run the risk of losing further licensing agreements, but of having their whole reputation tarnished and potential livelihood taken away.
No placement of trademark
Many Artists have also trademarked their slogans, parts of their designs, or even their brand name like ‘Donna’s paintings of birds’. When a trademark is registered it acts in much the same way as a copyright to protect the Artist. When an Artist seeks a licensing agreement such as with a greeting card company, it is not enough to just specify which paintings can be used and on what products, they also need to advise any company they do business with of their trademark. The Company offering the licensing agreement may not necessarily offer to put your trademark on the greeting cards (they often try to save money) so it is up to you to make sure your licensing contract offers specifications as to where and how your trademark will be placed. This needs to be done on any product you have licensed that bears your work.
Time length and termination
Many Artists are just so over joyed to get a licensing agreement that they forget to keep their options open. Licensing agreements need to address specific time frames over which works of art will be used. Contracts or licensing agreements should not prohibit an Artist from using the same works of Art with a second company while under a license with the first unless substantial financial consideration is given in the licensing agreement. Artists should also have the option to renew the license for some or all of their images if they wish. If this isn’t specified some unscrupulous Companies may try to find legal loop holes to continue using an Artists works after the contract has terminated.
Just as important is the termination clause within a licensing agreement. Both the Artist and the company doing the license of the artwork should have an option to terminate the contract both during the time it is active and at its conclusion. While no-one wants to see a licensing agreement end midstream, sometimes it does become necessary on both sides, especially when one party feels they can no longer legally or morally work with the other.
The most common mistakes Artists make when licensing their work are usually due to lack of knowledge and trying to go it alone. Hiring a licensing agent not only helps you find licensing contracts but also makes sure those contracts are prepared properly and legally and contain binding agreements on which art will be used, where and how it will be used, and for how long it will be used.
Then off to success!