Written by J’net Smith
Get sound business advice before sound legal advice.
This one is a little tricky. Licensing artists definitely need a good Intellectual Property 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.
About Jeanette Smith
Jeanette Smith is the consummate art licensing coach. In just six short years, J’net turned Dilbert™ from a relatively unknown syndication-based comic strip into a 200 million dollar a year global brand. Then in 2000, J’net translated and expanded on her extensive experience to train, advise and license all types of creators. She has helped hundreds of artists, graphic designers, painters, photographers, authors, illustrators, design firms, fine artists, creative companies, non-profits and agents to maximize the power of their brands and talents.
From her early days in New York building new divisions for such corporate giants as Official Airline Guides, MacMillan Publishing, Paramount Communications, and VIACOM International, to her six years of work at United Media spearheading the astronomical growth of Dilbert, Jeanette has compiled a long list of satisfied clients and has gained an enormous amount of respect and experience in marketing, licensing, advertising, PR, agenting, negotiating, and much more.