We've been representing artists, authors, musicians, and songwriters for over 20 years. We aren't here to just help these clients out of a jam - it’s good to have us on board as a counselor or trusted advisor. From trademark dilemmas to litigation woes, it’s important for artists to know when and why to consult a lawyer.
1. CONTRACT REVIEW. There are lots of different types of contracts an artist could come across. For instance, artists and musicians need a contract when they rent out studio space. Galleries often present contracts to artists participating in their shows. Art gallery contracts have some element of commission that needs to be laid out, as well as the safety of the art that is in their possession.
Artists often need help setting up a contract template they can modify. And if something unusual occurs, it’s helpful to have a lawyer that you can call. If you didn’t have a lawyer create a contract, it’s a good idea to have them review the contract. You don’t have to have a lawyer on retainer, but it’s nice to have someone you can call who can do a quick contract review. You don’t want to be searching for a lawyer for the first time when signing a contract with a gallery, museum, recording studio, publisher, buyer, etc.
2. INSURANCE. Insurance is a big issue. Artists need to have good insurance for when their art is being transported, if there’s a business interruption, and for their studio. Artists should have commercial general liability insurance - it protects them from legal action if there’s an accident in their place of business. Insurance is honestly not that expensive. Some artists starting out think they can’t afford it, but it can be as low as $300 per year. It really saves you if you have a catastrophic event, such as someone getting hurt in the studio or if a piece of work is stolen. Lawyers can review insurance policies - just like any other sort of contract - and make sure they’re acceptable.
3. TRADEMARK AND COPYRIGHT. Artists need help doing a trademark or copyright. They need that type of advice from a lawyer or they can find themselves in litigation. People will also take artists’ art, design, songs, or photos and post them on social media channels or web pages. It’s something that you need to monitor because you need to defend trademark or copyright or you can lose the right to assert it. It can be resolved with a demand letter for payment to the person who’s using your art inappropriately or illegally. You can also send a cease and desist letter to have your work removed.
We once had an artist client who had received a call that a commercial was being filmed in a private home in the Seattle area and one of her paintings was hanging on a wall in the house. The producer of the commercial needed a licensing agreement for the client's painting to be shown in the background of the commercial - that's where we came in.
4. LITIGATION. Usually litigation surrounds someone not paying you. It doesn’t necessarily mean a lawsuit, but some artists don’t explore the alternatives. You can hire a lawyer and tell them the facts. They will spend an hour or two drafting a demand letter to the offending individual. It’s nice to have someone that you can go to because issues will arise.
5. DEFAMATION. Artists can be involved in defamation on social media. You have to be careful. Be aware anything can be posted about you and many things you post can be accessed by many people. If you have a bad transaction with a gallery, studio, or buyer, people can post about it on social media. These comments can be considered defamation. Artists can use a lawyer to draft a cease and desist letter - essentially saying stop doing what you're doing.
Don’t wait - these small measures and expenses can save you a lot of money and headaches down the road. If you or someone you know an artist, author, musician, or songwriter and needs legal advice, give us a call at 253.858.5434 to see how we can be of service. We represent clients throughout Washington and Idaho and are available to meet in person, by phone, or via Skype or FaceTime.