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Do I Own My Art if I License It? Understanding Art Licensing

August 21st, 2023 - Tag: Art License Agreement

As artists, our creations are a part of us. They're birthed from our imagination, our experiences, and our hearts. Thus, the question of ownership, especially when it comes to licensing, often becomes a sensitive and pivotal topic. So, let's delve into the nuanced world of art licensing and unravel the threads of ownership.

What is Art Licensing?

At its core, art licensing is an agreement where the artist (the licensor) grants permission to an individual or entity (the licensee) to use their artwork for specific purposes, such as for products, advertising, or branding. This is usually done in exchange for a fee or royalty.

Do I Still Own My Art?

Short Answer: Yes.

Detailed Answer: When you license your art, you're not selling the artwork itself but rather the rights to use the artwork in certain ways for a specific period. The copyright – the legal right of ownership – still belongs to you unless explicitly transferred in writing.

Here are some key points to remember:

Rights Can be Exclusive or Non-exclusive: An exclusive license means the licensee is the only entity with the right to use the artwork in the manner specified in the agreement. Non-exclusive means you can license the same artwork to multiple entities.

Duration Matters: Licenses aren't forever (unless specified). They come with a duration, after which the rights revert entirely to the artist unless renewed.

Geography and Medium Specific: Your licensing agreement can specify regions where the art can be used and in what medium, be it print, digital, or other forms.

Reserve Rights: As the owner of the artwork, you can decide which rights you want to retain. Maybe you're okay with your art being used on posters but not on T-shirts. It's your call.

Advantages of Licensing Your Art

Revenue Stream: It can be a lucrative way of earning from your artwork multiple times.

Exposure: Your artwork can get significant exposure, especially if licensed by a prominent brand or company.

Retaining Ownership: You still have the copyright and can continue to use the artwork for your purposes, unless it's an exclusive deal.

Points to Ponder

Read Agreements Carefully: Ensure you fully understand the terms and are comfortable with them. Consider getting a legal professional to review it.

Know Your Worth: Don't undersell yourself. Understand the value your art brings to the table.

Maintain Records: Keep track of all your licensing agreements, terms, durations, and royalties.


Art licensing can be a win-win. The artist gets to monetize their creations and increase their exposure, all while retaining ownership. However, always ensure you're clear on the terms and are entering into agreements that respect and value your artistic integrity.