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Art licensing and Non-Disclosure Agreements

An artist recently emailed me asking about the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements.  After having had some copyright infringement issues, they wanted to have manufacturers sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement before giving them access to their online portfolio.

A different time an artist asked about using them at trade shows.

When I first started trying to license my art in the scrapbooking industry, I was advised by an attorney to NEVER leave art with anyone without having a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Seems these NDA’s (the acronym for Non-Disclosure Agreement) are on people’s minds.

The Concept:

The idea behind an NDA is good – before showing or leaving your intellectual property (your art) with a company you probably have no experience with, it would be good to have it in writing that they won’t be sharing your work with others. Or… if they decide to copy it, you have proof that they saw it.  Sounds good – right?

The Reality:

I don’t know of any manufacturer that is going to sign an NDA to see art.  First, there is so much art out there to choose from that doesn’t have any legal forms attached that they would probably just pass and move onto the next artist.  Secondly, they might worry that if they sign an NDA and your work is somehow similar in theme, style, etc. to something they are working on, that they could get into a legal dispute.

man With ContractWhen I asked the president of a company to sign an NDA before taking my portfolio back to his office for review, he smiled at me and leaned back in his chair.  He said, “That’s not how I do business.  If you don’t trust me enough to review your work, then we won’t be a good fit.  If we work together, there will certainly be a contract, but I don’t sign legal documents just to show art to my team.”  He wasn’t condescending or rude at all, he said it was up to me and if I decided I was comfortable with it, to bring him my portfolio.  He shook my hand and left – giving me time and space to decide what to do.

Of course I was panicking inside!  The attorney was very, very firm on this issue – get a signed NDA… in the end, I decided the potential reward was worth letting a binder with my art go off to an art meeting.  I ended up working with the company.

In a nutshell – I don’t think NDAs will work for art in the art licensing industry.  Now if you have some unique and unusual product design idea – that is a whole different ball game!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed

P.S.  I’ll be blogging about this but please note that I will no longer be responding to specific questions by email.  I may use a question for a blog post – like this one – or I may put them in the hat for the next Ask Call.  Click here to read my Individual Question Policy

One Response to Art licensing and Non-Disclosure Agreements

  • I’ve been asked the price for licening my art of Courtney Love for an interview about her in a high fashiin magazine in Brazil – how do I respond

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