Friday, June 05, 2015

Exclusive rights vs. non-exclusive

Welcome to my article series about my experiences in the licensing market and my process. I will publish new articles on 1-2 weekly basis. This weeks post is a small overview over the different types of terms and conditions at various shirt pages. It's a bit of a dry topic, but starting next week I'll talk more about my art process, promise!

Exclusive rights vs. non-exclusive

A lot of the shirt pages I have previously mentioned have different contract structures. I have to admit that I haven’t read them all completely, but it’s important to understand what rights you’re giving up.

The good news is that almost all of the daily shirt pages leave the full rights with the artist. When accepted by a page, they just get the right to sell it for a certain time period which is stated in their terms of agreement. Keeping full rights is really what you want to aim for if possible – because it means you can use a design FOREVER and EVER and EVER! :D That means that you could make money with it when you are already enjoying your retirement – assuming that the online shirt market is still a thing then. How cool is that?

Sometimes I am ok with giving up full rights: Woot is one of my favorite companies to work with for that. And even with woot, you have the option to get the rights back with their less exclusive contract models. The cool thing with woot is that if your design gets accepted as a daily they make their payment of 1000USD up front on the first day of sales, and - this is even cooler - after that you still get paid 2 USD/ unit sold (status April 2015).

Threadless changed their model about a year ago (status 2015): Artists now keep full rights to their art (Threadless used to take full apparel rights) – except in some cases with themed competitions (more about that below). They even increased the minimum payment of royalties recently.

There are some pages out there that take full rights and only pay you an upfront amount once (no royalties). So no matter how well/bad a design sells, you have a guaranteed amount of income. If the design sells really well this can be bad for you - but if the design sells really poorly you’ve still got your payment in the end.

Themed Competitions

Some pages, like Threadless and woot’s “Derby”, offer themed competitions, . Themes can be stuff like “Cartoons”, “Halloween”, “spring”, “cats” and stuff like that. I sometimes like to take part in these because it gives me a point to start from when searching for design ideas.

Sometimes shirt companies partner up with corporations/companies/movies etc. and start a themed competition revolving around that. Usually, it means that the shirt company has a deal with their partner giving them the license to use their characters. Carefully read the terms of agreement because very often you sign the rights of your design away just by participating. Some people might see it as a chance to get a foot in with a big company like Disney, Marvel, and many others – I personally prefer not to take part in these competitions because I am not a big fan of “work-for-hire” work models. If your design gets chosen, the payment can be pretty good – but in some cases it is far below average of what a hired designer would be paid.

Final tips:

-        Read the terms of agreement of the page you’re submitting to (especially the part about usage rights). Usually they are listed via a link on the submission page.
-        Try to decide which contract model works best for the design you’re submitting. If you’re really attached to a design, consider choosing a model that enables you to keep full rights (like with most “daily shirt pages”).
-        If you take part in a themed competitions, read the terms of agreement carefully: You might give up full rights!

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