Most Common Mistakes Artists Make when Licensing their Work

A company wants to buy your artwork.  You sent them your work and the letter arrives telling you that they want to use it.  They enclosed a licensing agreement.  As you read and reread it, trying to understand what is in the agreement, you become even more confused.  Most artists, especially those who are just breaking into the business, usually sign the licensing contract and hope for the best.  This is where the trouble begins.

When you sign a licensing agreement, you are giving the company permission to use your artwork.  If you do not know what you are signing, you could lose your copyright.

Licenses are legal and binding. These few tips concerning licensing may benefit you.   

-When you sign a license, you are giving the company the right to use your art.  

-When you sign the agreement, you are giving them permission to use your art on a product, for a certain amount of time with certain conditions. 

-If you sign without knowing what you are signing, you may give them exclusive rights forever.  The company may even enjoy the right to use your artwork without compensation.

Here are a few hints to help you retain your rights when licensing your work.  Be sure these are included in any licensing agreement.

*make sure that the licensing agreement has the copyrighted name of the works of arts.

*what they are planning to use the art on – type of products (brochures, ads or product labels).

*make sure that your copyright notice is on all products in which they are using the art.  If someone, other than the company, likes the art, you may be contacted for other art work for their products.

*figure out the initial amount of time you want your art to represent their product.  At the end of that time, the company loses the right to your work.  This is in case they do not get the product financed, and you do not get paid.  They could keep it indefinitely without the time limit.

* figure out how long they can retain the licensing of your work.  Set up an agreed end date for the license.  You can always renew the license at the end of the licensing period.

*a warranty clause to protect you from any lawsuits that may occur because of their product.  This is  an indemnify clause to prohibit anyone from suing you.

*have a clause in the agreement that allows you to cancel if they do not follow its terms or if they go bankrupt.

*have in place, a statement that any advance payment given to you is non-refundable.  What percentage of royalty you can expect to receive from the product; a statement showing the breakdown of the royalty you receive.

These hints should be useful for you.  If you are not sure of the legalese of the license agreement, retain a licensing agent or lawyer.  This is your future on the line, and whatever money it costs in the beginning is worth it in the long run.