It seems never to occur to most artists (with some notable exceptions) to have a lawyer look over the contract their new Gallery or licensing company wants them to sign. Why not? Well, a couple of reasons might be that the artist is just so thrilled to have an actual walk-in gallery or licensing firm offering to display or sell their work that the artist overlooks making sure their rights are protected, or that the artist simply can’t afford to hire an attorney.
There are several types of contracts an artist might be involved with.
A contract commissioning a piece of art.
A consignment contract with a gallery to sell your work,
A licensing agreement to sell prints, cards or commission work to be translated into other art forms (plates, tiles, textiles, etc.).
An agreement with an agent to sell or advertise your work.
An agreement with a venue (non-gallery) to display or sell your art.
Booth rental space at an event.
When are the times when you should have someone with legal experience take a look at what you are signing? Well, if you can afford it, anytime you want to be paid for your work, but if you are a starving artist, can you afford a $60/hour retainer? Probably not, however you do have some other options. If you ever find yourself in need of legal representation, you can try Lawyers for the Arts. Most states have either a volunteer lawyers for the arts organization or regular lawyers for the arts who if you ask for it will sometimes give you a bro bono consultation to see want you need.
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) is both a generic term for a number of legal service organizations located throughout the country. It is also the proper name of an organization in New York City, Founded in 1969. That organization is the oldest VLA in the United States. Many states also have their own non-profit organizations: In California, Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts (BALA) was founded in 1971. When BALA expanded to Southern California joining with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts–Los Angeles, it was renamed California Lawyers for the Arts. There are more than 30 VLA programs spread around the states. Lawyers for the arts is not a single organization, but a network joined by similar vocations providing a range of free or low-cost legal services and educational programs to tackle the needs of artists and arts associations for all genres of art and artists
Several of the platforms include
- Legal services through referrals and sometimes on-site consultations;
- Some host legal clinics; alternative dispute resolution including mediation and arbitration;
- accounting services;
- Law student internships who are usually a lot less expensive to use and can overlook contracts;
- Educational programs on topics like contracts, copyright, estate planning, taxes and nonprofit incorporation;
- Most of them also carry publications on a broad range of issues.
In CALIFORNIA, if you are looking for an attorney, you can also go to: http://www.CaliforniaAttorneyReferral.com, or you can try someone from the list below:
- Beverly Hills Bar Association Barristers Committee for the Arts 300 S. Beverly Dr., Ste. 201 Beverly Hills, CA 90212 (310) 601-2422 http://www.bhba.org/Committees_Sections/Barristers-Comms-10-11.htm
- California Lawyers for the Arts (Sacramento) 1127 Eleventh St. #214 Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 442-6210 http://www.calawyersforthearts.org/
- California Lawyers for the Arts (San Francisco) Fort Mason Center, Building C, Rm 255 San Francisco, CA 94123 (415) 775-7200 /http://www.calawyersforthearts.org/
- California Lawyers for the Arts (Santa Monica) 1641 18th St. Santa Monica, CA 90404 (310) 998-5590 http://www.calawyersforthearts.org/
- San Diego Performing Arts League 110 West C St. #1414 San Diego, CA 92101 (619) 238-0700 x. 16
Please keep in mind that some of the address and phone numbers may have changed. Since I have never used any of these firms, I have no idea of their quality, fees or abilities.
Even if you don’t see the need to have legal advice on every little thing, there are some issues you need to make sure are covered in any contract you enter into.
- If this is a commission sale, when is to be completed and how soon afterwards are you paid?
- Is the Gallery or Agent requiring exclusive rights?
- When are payments due from consignment sales?
- How long does the consignment last?
- If there is a reception who pays for it?
- Who hangs the art?
- If the hanging causes damage who pays for the repairs?
- If the gallery or venue goes out of business make sure your art cannot be considered part of the gallery assets or they could be sold to pay business debts in which case you won’t receive any payment for your work.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is for general information purposes only; it is not intended to be tax or legal advice. Each situation is specific; consult your CPA or attorney to discuss your specific business questions.