In the context of artwork, licenses are contracts in which artists grant to other parties — often manufacturers — the legal right to use their copyrighted creative works in exchange for flat fees or royalties based on a percentage of sales, sometimes with advances up front.  

At our law firm, we represent artists like photographers, painters and graphic artists in a wide variety of legal matters related to outbound licensing of their creative works. Careful drafting of such a license is important so the artist can control the ways in which the licensee can use the art.

We also represent parties seeking the right to use art through inbound licenses negotiated with artists. 

Phases of license creation and enforcement 

In our art-license work, we may engage in: 

  • Drafting
  • Review
  • Negotiation
  • Litigation representing artists enforcing licenses or bringing infringement suits
  • Defending parties accused of license breach or copyright infringement 

Single or multiple use 

A license can be for a single use of the art such as on the cover of one edition of a magazine or reproduced once as a mural on a wall. A multiple-use license might allow a licensee to reproduce an image on a number of its specified products for sale like cards, shirts, mugs or posters. 

Exclusive or nonexclusive 

Licenses can be exclusive between two parties (creating a monopoly for the licensee either permanently, for a set span of time or for a particular use) or an artist may offer nonexclusive licenses to creative works available to the public at large. For example, the artist may create a website (or use the website of another) from which individuals can purchase nonexclusive licenses, download the image, and use it as permitted by the license.

Seek legal counsel 

A license agreement is a multifaceted and complex contract. Any persons contemplating entering into a license involving creative works should have an experienced intellectual property attorney on their side to see that the important details are carefully considered, negotiated and drafted in their interest.