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Nuts and Bolts: Licensing FAQ

October 15, 2014
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LICENSING – DO’s and DON’Ts

Sometimes, GCU artists are targeted by other companies wanting to license their greeting card designs. These companies might be PODs (Print on Demand) retailers like GCU or companies offering a more traditionally printed product. While it’s flattering that someone has come knocking on your door, you should keep a clear head and not allow yourself to fall into a bad deal.

 

Before we get started, this is our unprofessional advice taken from years of working in the art world.  Should you have legal questions, consult an attorney or licensing agent.

We recommend artists educate themselves before entering into any licensing agreements. These books will help.

Licensing Art and Design: A Professional’s Guide to Licensing and Royalty Agreements by Caryn R. Leland

20 Steps to Art Licensing: How to Sell Your Designs to Card and Gift Companies by Kate Harper

Here are things you should look out for:

DO check to see how long any retail website has been live. The information is usually found at the bottom of the home page. If the site is less than a couple of years old, then this company may not have been in business very long. Many new businesses crash and burn fairly soon and only a handful will be successful. Choose carefully before you commit. Your time is too valuable to waste.

DON’T be afraid to ask questions. There is nothing wrong with getting more information and the more informed you are, the better the choice you can make. You want to be sure your designs and the company’s customer base mesh, otherwise you’re both wasting your time. The more common questions are:

  • Payment: How is the company paying you? Do you get a flat fee or do they pay royalties based on product sales? If so, how much? Is any advance being paid? When can you expect to be paid? Is the fee negotiable?
  • Terms: Is the license transferable? Is it exclusive (meaning, you can’t license that same design to anyone else.)
  • Marketing/Sales: Does the company advertise? Attend trade shows? How will customers find your art? What are the company’s sales projection estimates?
  • General: Who are the company’s customers? What style of art is the company looking for? What other artists does the company work with? How will the company protect your copyrighted material? Who retains the copyright to the work?

DO have any licensing contract checked by an attorney or licensing agent. Unless you or someone you know is an expert, get a lawyer to go over the contract and make sure there aren’t any hidden pitfalls. A little expense now could save you years of frustration in the future.

Do read this helpful article from the Graphics Artist’s Guild—License It—which contains some excellent information as well as helpful definitions of common legal terms used in licensing.

Just remember, never enter into any legal agreement without full knowledge of the terms being offered and ensure your rights and responsibilities are spelled out clearly.

 

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