Understanding Licensing Art & Artistic License

Understanding Licensing Art & Artistic License
These phrases may sound similar but they are quite different in that 'licensing art' is an agreed upon legal agreement, yet 'artistic license' is deliberate or unintentional by an artist. I’ll discuss both.

To "license" or "grant permission" is a $70 billion industry, with art licensing comprising 10%.

Copyrights vary from country to country, but I’ll address only the US Copyright Act of 1976 in regards to artwork - which affords the artist exclusive rights to his/her work. They also retain the copyright to images of their work.

A licensing agreement is where the artist 'rents' a work of art for a specific time and in a specified way. It doesn’t denote exclusivity and the artist can, in fact, license to multiple companies at one time.

Licensing artwork for commercial use can be used for consumer products such as fabric or t-shirts.

How is an artist compensated for licensing the artwork, you ask?

The options for payment of licensing are:
royalty with an advance. If paid up-front, the advances will be deducted at a later time.
percentage of gross sales
one-time flat fee

Carefully consider the pros and cons of payment. A consultation with an expert in the field of licensing may be advisable.

The phrase "artistic license" was first used in 1845. From Dictionary(dot)com, they define 'artistic license' as "the freedom to create artwork… based on the artist’s interpretation and mostly for effect."

From the Online Slang Dictionary, they define the same phrase as: "the bending of truth for the sake of art." I would say both are accurate definitions.

From the website About(dot)com, 'artistic license' is described as a tool that can be: deliberate, unintentional, or both.

'Deliberate' because: the artist wants to be part of an art movement, they act with an attitude, or use it because it benefits the integrity of the work.

'Unintentional' because: it is due to a lack of accuracy in the work’s execution, the artist is outright wrong, or just because 'artistic license' exists.

If you are an artist, consider 'licensing' your artwork for a fee or explore 'outside of the box' and use 'artistic license' to express yourself.

You can own a copy of the book, "Licensing Art & Design," available here from Amazon.com.

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