3 Things an Artist Should Keep in Mind for Licensing Agreements

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3 Things an Artist Should Keep in Mind for Licensing Agreements


What is a Licensing Agreement?

A licensing agreement is an agreement between two parties that allows one of the parties to use a product or service created or owned by another party. The party giving the right is the licensor, and the party being given the right is the licensee. These kinds of agreements effectively act as glorified permission slips. They are very common and helpful tools in the art world. Let’s look at how they apply to artists specifically.


Licensing for Artists

As an artist, you hold legal rights, specifically the copyright, in your work because you are the creator of the work. So you get to control how others handle your work. The Copyright Act tells you that because you hold the copyright in the work, you have other associated rights – you, and you alone, can reproducepublicly displayperformdistribute, and make derivatives of your work. The only way other people can use your work is by getting your permission through a license.

So let’s say a company approaches you about using your photograph in print advertising for its business. This is where a licensing agreement would come in handy because you (the licensor) would be giving the company (the licensee) the right to use your photograph, and you would be compensated for it.


3 Things to Keep in Mind

A lot of things need to be considered when drafting a licensing agreement. Here are three main topics that should be covered in any licensing agreement:

  1. Exclusivity – A license can either be exclusive or non-exclusive. Exclusive means you are only giving that company permission to use your artwork. Non-exclusive means that you can have agreements with other parties about using the work.This may depend on various factors, like who the other party is that you are contracting with, the product being licensed, and the company’s purpose for the license.
  2. Terms of Use – Make sure it is made clear how the licensee can use your work – whether for promotional purposes, advertising, marketing, or other purposes. And if any of the intended use is outside the scope of the terms set out in the agreement, the client needs to get your approval first.Licensing agreements can be perpetual (i.e. last forever) or durational (i.e. last for a specified period of time, maybe a couple years or so). Again, this will probably depend on what your work is being used for and who the contracting party is.
  3. Rights – This is Key! There must be a clause in the agreement addressing your legal rights in the work. It important that it is clearly stated that you are and always will be the owner of the copyright and intellectual property rights in your work and that this agreement in no way transfers those rights to the licensee.



These are just a few of the items typically included in licensing agreements. There are many other terms to look out for and incorporate as well. A lawyer can help review, draft, and negotiate these agreements to make sure you are fully protected.

Interestingly, licensing was quite a hot topic of conversation in the art world recently related to the impressive Hudson Yards centerpiece staircase – check out Tom Maddrey’s article on it here.


About the Author

Madeleine Shroyer is our firm’s rising expert on fashion and non-profit law. During her law school career at SMU, Madeleine interned at a boutique law firm, which taught her the importance of teamwork and effective communication.

Learn more about Madeleine Schroyer HERE.


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