Rule #7

10 10 2011

Get sound business advice before sound legal advice.  

This one is a little tricky. Licensing artists definitely need a good IP lawyer—that’s an Intellectual Property lawyer. But there are definitely ways of keeping expenses in check. For example, making sure you understand your business first, before you get the lawyer involved, is one great way to keep your costs down.

Every person who hires a lawyer is looking for legal advice, but few lawyers will provide business advice. First learn the business of Art Licensing through classes, coaching, blogs, articles, and by researching online. Everything you learn about the Art Licensing business is going to save you time and money in the long run.

Educating yourself about standard terms, royalties, advances, agreements, art development, approvals, product design, manufacturers, line development, production processes and retail distribution will be invaluable when it comes to creating contracts. This is because, while the lawyer can create the contract, they don’t know what business decisions are right for you (the licensor) and your business partner (the licensee).

Let me repeat that: your lawyer can create a contract, but they can’t possibly know what business decisions are right for you and the manufacturer. And every contract has a significant part of it which requires art licensing business decisions, such as the royalty rate, advance, grant of rights, territory, length of the agreement, to name a few. These are the ‘terms’ that the licensor and licensee must ‘plug’ into the contract, and they should not (generally) be recommended by your lawyer.

So back to Rule #1 of our ’20 Rules for Starting Your Art Licensing Business’—learn as much as you can about the Art Licensing business, and I recommend getting advice from licensing experts, as well as colleagues, manufacturers and fellow artists who have experience in the business. But don’t expect a lawyer to give you advice on the business terms for your contract.

Rule #5

3 10 2011

Understand copyrights and trademarks.

You own the copyright to your artwork the moment you create them. I encourage you to register your copyrights when you create them, or at least when you begin to use them in business.

As you build your Art Licensing business, you may also need to look into securing trademarks for your brand, art collections and characters. This blog won’t go into the detail about how to do this, but I want to be clear about telling you that the registration of your copyrights and trademarks is the only thing that provides legal ‘teeth’ to pursue and win an infringement case, should you ever need to.

The law is written in a way that states that you must protect and defend your copyrights and trademarks. It’s never done for you. Once you have registered them, it’s really your privilege and obligation, to protect and defend them.

Without registering them, you really won’t have a foot to stand on in court.  It’s a very important point to understand.

Note: If you are interested you can check out three phenomenal classes covering Copyrights, Trademarks and Contract Language, which I teach with Attorney Elizabeth Russell. You’ll appreciate the simple terminology of the Legal Ease 3-class series, yet they incorporate full explanations and thoughtful presentations designed specifically for artists looking to license their artwork.  We even teach you how to economize on the paperwork and cost so you can maximize the process of protecting your art.

Visit our website to purchase and download these classes.

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