Artwork licensing tips

Licensing > an overview of licensing your artworks for commercial projects plus a handy glossary

Julian Casson avatar
Written by Julian Casson
Updated over a week ago

One of the great things about Bluethumb is that people come to us to purchase artworks for many different reasons. The fact we can offer a wide range of styles and prices plays to our advantage, in that we'll generally be able to help someone quickly find what they're looking for. That includes commercial buyers looking to license an artwork for a special project.

Most commercial projects come out of the blue, and are fun to work on as they generally come together as an interesting story that helps shine a light on the artist. Plus the client takes away something unique, and helps support an Australian artist at the same time.

Wine labels, premium tea packaging, limited edition prints for corporate gifts, scientific journal cover art...are but a few of the commercial projects we've helped negotiate for our artists. Sometimes the artwork is a new commissioned piece, other times it's an existing work. It depends on what the client is looking for, though the general flow for commercial projects runs as follows:

  • Commercial buyer contacts Bluethumb with a specific artwork and/or project brief in mind

  • We source and clarify any important additional information - including usage and budget - and put this to the artist

  • There may be a bit of back-and-forth to iron out the fine points

  • Once agreed, Bluethumb drafts up a licensing agreement which is signed by and returned to both parties for future record keeping

  • In addition to the purchase price, a licence fee is paid to the artist; this varies depending on the scope on the project 

We are very conscious of ensuring any commercial project is clear and well understood, so have developed a licensing agreement template with our arts law partner, which we are able to adapt for each new project.

While snaring a commercial project is mostly luck of the draw, there are a few things you can do that will help us to help you, should a project arise:

  1. Keep your artwork listings in fine shape - the usual tips apply here; up-to-date availability status, great photos, clear and detailed descriptions go a long way to helping potential buyers discover your artworks when browsing

  2. Get in touch with the team - if someone contacts you directly about a commercial project and you're not confident with how to negotiate, get in touch with one of us. We'll not only handle the negotiations for you, but will draft a licensing agreement to ensure you are protected and fairly rewarded

  3. Be up-front with any concerns or no go's - it's fine to say no to projects. It's really up to you, though it does make negotiations much easier and timely if we start with any boundaries out in the open. Have in mind what you'd like to get out of any potential project, and where your limits sit

Commercial project negotiations can sound like another language. Rest assured we understand the jargon, though here's a short glossary that may help you navigate a few of the key terms:

Agent - that's us; we act on your behalf to help handle negotiations and agreements

Client - the person or organisation who is entering into the agreement to license your artwork

Copyright - it's important to note the copyright ownership of your artworks stays with you. You are simply granting permission for the artwork to be used as outlined within the licensing agreement

Credit - whenever possible we ensure the artist's name is credited within the context of the commercial project; e.g. your name may appear on a product's packaging

Duration - a defined time period for which your artwork will be licensed; e.g. x days/months/years, or a set date range

Grant of Rights - an important clause in the licensing agreement that clarifies the rights of both you and the Client in entering the agreement

Licence Fee
- the agreed amount paid to you (minus the usual Bluethumb commission) as fair compensation for your artwork being licensed; this is in addition to the artwork purchase price

Territory - the location(s) where your artwork can be licensed; it may be a specific state, Australia-wide, multiple countries, digital use etc.

Usage - a catch-all term that encompasses a project's finer individual details; if the project falls outside of the agreed usage, we will help to re-negotiate

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