Biz Miss

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Notes on Licensing January 7, 2010

Filed under: Intellectual Property — bizmiss @ 7:59 pm
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I’m a big fan of automatic income, so I was excited to learn about CardsInk, a sort of Threadless-type site for greeting cards.  The web site made it seem so easy.  Submit a design, get votes, get paid.  I thought I would submit my Tanks design, so late this afternoon I signed up for an account.

I was dismayed to read in the user agreement, however (ALWAYS read the user agreement, even if it’s long), that if you submit a card design, CardsInk owns the license to it, exclusively, forever.  They only pay $100 for a successful design (plus a potential $50 for reprints), so in the end I had to say no.  Frankly, the amount of time I put into Tanks! is worth way more than $100 to me, and so is the potential profit from printing and selling the cards myself.  That might not be the case for hundreds of their other members, which is fine, but I find it a little underhanded that they make NO licensing info available before you sign up.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mrs. Grossman’s sent me a really generous licensing agreement today.  They agreed to let me make and sell my mandalas and prints, and to display them wherever I like for ten years for free as long as I credit them for the original sticker designs.  More than fair, I think.

They also posted one of the images to their Facebook page and commissioned a mandala with instructions to put on the wall of their factory store.  And they’re sending me free stickers!  It really doesn’t get any better that that.  No wait–actually, it does, when MRS. ANDREA GROSSMAN HERSELF says that the mandalas are “the best and most creative use of stickers I have seen in a long time.”  The six-year-old inside me crapped her pants when I read that.  To celebrate, I put all of the mandalas up in my Etsy shop, with the requisite line of credit:

Original sticker designs by Mrs. Grossman’s Paper Company.

Bottom line: always do your homework when it comes to licensing–whether you’re the licensor or the licensee.  Some companies that seem cool and indie might have some shady fine print, and some bigger, more established companies might be surprisingly supportive.  And of course, never ever sell work that uses someone else’s designs without permission–even if you bought it.  Owning an example of a design does not equal owning the rights to that design.