It’s so very empowering to know your mission. My mission is to help artists sell their art without selling out.
Meeting other people who share a similar mission or values ignites instant rapport.
I just experienced this when I had the pleasure of meeting Danielle Merrick, Executive Director of the Kansas City Volunteer Lawyers & Accountants for the Arts since 2010.
Danielle also has a lot to say on the subject of making art and making money.
I recently partnered with the Kansas City Volunteer Lawyers & Accountants for the Arts to help deliver my “Free Live On-Line Business Training for Artists Program.”
So I asked her to share three lessons and one piece of parting advise that she gives most often to artists about making art and making money.
1. Avoid unwittingly entering into legal partnerships.
Many artists collaborate creatively.
If they create something of value they want naturally want to sell it.
Here’s the problem. You can unwittingly enter into an unclear legal partnership.
If you haven’t bothered to outline your agreement clearly in writing it sets you up for copyright, trademark, contract, and taxation issues.
2. Put all of your agreements in writing. Why?
- A. Putting things in writing is a good basic business practice.
- B. Property, that includes intellectual property, can only be legally transferred in writing.
- C. Last but not least, not having a written agreement can destroy relationships.
If you’re contract-signing phobic then you can use a simple email exchange to outline and confirm your agreements.
3. As soon as you create something you own it.
As a creator, author, painter, designer, musician, etc. You have common law rights to your intellectual property that you should control.
Those rights are referred to as “copyright.” No one has the right to “copy” anything that you have created without your written permission. That means no recording or photographing at all. Nada.
Ignorance is not a defense in the law.
That means that other creators also have the same rights. So collage artists beware.
Unless you have permission in writing to “copy” another creator’s creation, you’re breaking the law.
Great tip! Someone who is infringing on your copyright could be a potential business partner who you have not yet met.
- Step 1. When you discover someone using your creations, simply send them a standard licensing agreement and an invoice for their use.
- Step 2. If they don’t respond, send a cease and desist letter and state “I will take further legal action if necessary.”
- Step 3. Take legal action. Take them to small claims court or a file a federal claim. To file a federal claim your copyright must be registered with the Copyright Office.
Another reason to file your copyright is that it strengthens your defense and you have access to specific remedies, meaning that the damages that you can recover are much greater if you have filed your copyright.
You can register a series of work. Meaning that you can inventory everything that you have created and registered it all at once.
You do not need a copyright attorney to register your copyright.
The sooner your register your copyright the better. Get it done within 30 days of its first publication.
One piece of parting advise? “Recognize that your art is a business.”
That is why it is essential that you understand the legal and accounting aspects of your artistic enterprise.
Danielle Merrick has been the associate staff director of the Entrepreneurial Legal Services Clinic since 2004, and the Executive Director of the Kansas City Volunteer Lawyers & Accountants for the Arts since 2010. Professor Merrick earned her bachelor of social welfare from the University of Kansas and her J.D. and LL.M. in Taxation from UMKC.
Previously, she was employed with American Century Investments in the Tax Department and worked on individual and corporate tax forms. She was also involved with the launching of the state of Kansas’ 529 plan.
Has your copyright been infringed upon? What did you do? How did it work out?