Australian Fine Artist

Copyright for Artists

Assigning Copyright Versus Licensing – What’s the Difference?

When you exhibit you may be asked to sign a document to allow reproduction of your work for an event. I want to talk about the difference between assigning copyright and licensing copyright.

I will put this in the easiest way to remember, which is what I use. One is like selling something so you don’t own it any more, the other is like leasing or renting something, which you still own and will get back.

Assigning copyright is like selling it off. Once you assign copyright of your image you have given away your rights to it. Whomever you have assigned it to now holds the copyright and you will need to get permission from them to use the image you created. This may sound strange as you created it, but you are in fact selling off ALL your rights to use that image or artwork in any of your material for promoting, advertising, reproduction etc.

Licensing copyright is for a given time or event. You may license it for an exhibition for advertising purposes, but once that show is over your copyright reverts to you and the event organisers can not use it again without your permission.

When you read contracts for events, exhibitions etc, do so carefully to make sure that the wording covers you getting back your copyright for your artworks and prevents further use without your permission, or worse, cuts you off from using your original work for your own business.

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