12 Kinds of Data An Artist Should Track in Their Art Licensing Business

Artists have a reputation for being so right-brained, that they resist every left-brained activity humanly possible. Unfortunately, it is often the left-brained activities, like managing money and paying attention to deadlines and the details of contracts, that can get them into trouble if they are running an art business.

Licensing your art requires some sort of system to make sure you don't forget important pieces of information that could cause you to have legal trouble for overlapping contracts or financial trouble if you don't realize where your money is coming from. At first it is easy to remember who has licensed what type of art — it's so exciting it stays in your head! But as the business grows, the chance of costly mistakes increases.

The key data for any art licensing business falls into two key categories: art data and licensee data.

First let's look at seven key things you should keep track of in relation to your art.

  1. The image or art collection name.
  2. The year you created it, which is the copyright year.
  3. When you submitted the art to the Library of Congress, and the copyright registration number you receive back from the copyright office. While copyright ownership is implied, you can't sue or recover monetary damages in court if it is not registered with the Library of Congress. So it is important to get into the habit of registering all of your work.
  4. What company or companies have licensed the art.
  5. What products or product categories the art is licensed for. You don't want to inadvertently grant the same rights to two companies, that is a recipe for legal troubles in the form of "breach of contract".
  6. The term of the contract — when does the license begin and when does it end.
  7. How much have you earned in royalties from any company that has licensed the art.

Now let's look at five key things you should keep track of in relation to your licensees. (Remember the licensee is the company that has licensed the right to use your art for their product.)

  1. Licensee contact information.
  2. Contracts with the licensee. Usually you have a preliminary contract with a company and then add addendums to it if they choose new artwork to license at a future date. The addendums all refer back to the original contract so you need to remain clear about the details and the term of the contract.
  3. Contract termination, renewal or notification dates. Many contracts will auto-renew for a year or more if neither party notifies the other of the desire to end or change the contract. So if you don't remember that a notification date is approaching, you might automatically sign up for another year with a company you'd rather not work with any longer or one you'd like to re-negotiate royalty rates with.
  4. Licensed art and licensed products. It is important to know what art collections each licensee has licensed and for what products. Also track the terms and dates for those products added after the initial contract.
  5. Royalties paid by the licensee, broken down by art collection or image if possible. That way you can see what art is a good fit for each company and decide what to create next.

You will notice that some of the same information is mentioned for both the art and the licensee so being able to cross-reference is helpful as well. Create a system to manage your information early, so you can focus on creating your art.

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