If you have a company that deals with artwork, then chances are you will need to become familiar with the concept of art licensing. While many people use the terms “assigning” and “licensing” interchangeably, there is a significant difference to be aware of. You could make a drastic mistake by assuming the two are the same, so learn the fundamental differences between the two actions.
When you give someone license of your work, you are essentially renting it out to the individual or business. They have access to your work for a limited amount of time, and there are limits on what they can do with the art. Ultimately, you still own your artwork. However, assigning a piece of art is tantamount to handing it over to someone. The person or business you assign to your artwork now has full ownership, and they can do whatever they want with it. It is a key difference, and when you are reading contracts, you should make sure you know which one you are choosing.
Getting a Reversion
In addition to making it abundantly clear whether you are getting a license or assignment, you also need to look into whether the contract comes with a reversion stipulation. A reversion is when a certain event happens that forces the piece of art to revert back to the initial ownership. Reversions generally come with licenses, but they also often come with assignments. It is important to identify when a contract comes with a reversion so that you are aware of when the licensing party would get full rights back of the artwork.
First, it is important to be aware of the language that would indicate a reversion is present within a contract. “Reversion” is obviously one word to watch out for, but “termination,” “commercialization” and “grant of rights” should also be taken into consideration. You should also pay attention to what precisely triggers a reversion. The license may only be in effect for a given amount of time, or a period of inaction on the artwork could negate the license.
What Is Best for Your Company?
You may deal with artists who have no preference if they are giving away a license or assignment on their piece of art. However, other artists may want a certain avenue to be taken. It is often best for a company to have assignment over an artwork so that it has unfettered control over it. Assigning an artwork over to a company allows them to pursue legal action over individuals or businesses that infringe on the piece. Companies are also allowed to make derivatives of the work.
Although reversions are generally associated with licenses, you can also get them to come with an assignment. For example, you could get an artist to sign an agreement that assigns a piece over to your company, but reversions are in place that would give the artist his or her rights back to the artwork in case something specific happens. A film company may have an assignment over a screenplay, but if they do not enter production within five years, then the script could revert back to the artist so that he or she could shop it around to other companies. A clause can also exist stating that if the company were to go bankrupt, then ownership of the work of art would revert back to the initial artist. There are numerous agreements you can get, and you should consider them all carefully to determine what would be best for your business.
The exact language you use in contracts is crucial to not losing out on pieces of art and potentially a lot of money. Brush up on what certain terms mean legally so that you aren’t baffled by paperwork.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.