Updated October 29, 2020:

An artist licensing agreement is an accord where an artist gives a client permission to use their artwork by allowing them to acquire a license for promotional purposes to bolster a product or service. Determined by the artist, the terms of the licensing agreement are clear, making the conditions explicit as to how the "licensee" is able to use the artwork and the artist's compensation for its use.

Artists frequently overlook the fact that they deserve some kind of compensation by collectors or clients for the utilization of their creations. As an artist, when you offer your work to a potential client for use, or a client approaches you to use your work, a licensing agreement is vital for the protection of yourself and the propriety of your work against a client who might use your work without your knowledge or permission in a way you don't approve.

The Artist's Right to Protect Their Work

As an artist and the creator of your works of art, you are the sole owner of your work's copyright, until you sell or transfer the copyright to another entity. Whether you become involved in an artist licensing agreement for a short amount of time, or permanently, you still own the rights to your work. As sole owner, you retain several absolute rights for the works you produce under the Copyright Act.

Those rights encompass:

  • The right to produce copies of your work
  • The right to change or modify your work
  • The right to distribute your work
  • The right to publicly display your work
  • The right to create offshoots of your work that is originally based on your work

Because those rights belong to you, as an artist, they will never be stripped from you.

When granting a client a license to use your work, you aren't selling the work. You are selling the permission to use the work in a way that you approve of for a set length of time. A licensing agreement should be present in your art-related livelihood because it is a vital part of the growth of your business. Even though it appears to cause added work and effort, an artist licensing agreement will save you money and time in the end.

Art Licensing

Licensing is a 70 billion dollar industry, with the licensing of art comprising 10 percent of the licensing revenue total. Art licensing is a quickly expanding industry, growing exponentially every day because it covers a diversity of products focused on brands, and well-known artists occupied by style and name. Art licensing involves any imaging likeness that can be bound by a license and can appear on any entertainment medium or manufactured product. The main objective for the artist to have a licensing agreement is so they can look forward to receiving reasonably large advances and a big royalty percentage for their creations and the time they put into creating.

The Terms Covered in an Artist Licensing Agreement

  • Who the artist is and who the client is
  • The duration of time that the licensing agreement will last
  • The products that the artist's images will appear on
  • The distribution and the selling of the products that have the artist's artwork on them
  • The artist will have approval in how the client treats the artwork
  • How much the client will agree to pay the artist in advance and in royalties
  • The frequency that the client will pay the artist for the use of their work
  • How the artist can exit the licensing agreement if they no longer want to be apart of it

Artist Licensing Agreements fall under Intellectual Property Protection, which is protection for artistic works because they are created by the mind. Copyrights protect the original works of art, the authorship, and the production of the art.

If you have any further questions about art licensing agreements, you want to learn more about what's involved in a licensing agreement, or you have any legal questions concerning this issue because you are an artist or a client interested in obtaining permission to use a copyrighted work of art, post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace.

UpCounsel has the most knowledgeable and experienced lawyers on their staff that are ready to assist you with your legal needs. UpCounsel accepts only the top five percent of lawyers, coming from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law, having an average of 14 years of legal experience which includes working with or on behalf of companies like Menlo Ventures, Airbnb, and Google.