Licensing your copyright? Get it in writing!

As an artist or content creator, licensing your artworks and content can be one of your most important and rewarding streams of income. As well as getting your work out there, ensuring that you are paid appropriately and your works are protected arejust as important.

Make sure your licence contracts are in writing.

Unfortunately, many artists and creators often make unwritten or informal arrangements when licensing their copyrighted works to others.  Whether this is based on the assumption that it’s unnecessary to enter into a contract, that it’s safer to work under an informal agreement, or simply trusting that the licensee will do the right thing, operating without expressly written terms can pose significant risks for artists and creators .

The recent case of Hardingham v RP Data Pty Ltd demonstrates just how easily issues can arise from informal or unwritten copyright licencing arrangements – especially if your works are being uploaded to third party websites.

Hardingham v RP Data – what was the issue?

Mr Hardingham is a professional photographer who provided photographs and floorplans to real estate agencies to be used in marketing campaigns for the agencies’ listed properties, including for listings on realestate.com.au, which had standard terms for agents. These terms include a broad licence of uploaded content.

However, these photographs and floorplans were then reproduced and uploaded by a third-party company, RP Data, under a separate sub-licensing agreement with realestate.com.au.

Mr Hardingham commenced court proceedings claiming that RP Data had infringed his copyright in his images and floorplans.

Well if Hardingham didn’t license the works to RP Data, they shouldn’t be able to use his works, right?

Unfortunately for Mr Hardingham, this was not the case.

While it may have been his initial intentions that the licence granted to the agencies was for house marketing purposes only, and that no sub-licence could be granted, the court took a different view.

As there was no formal written contract between Hardingham or his company and the agencies, the court relied on evidence surrounding the context and the commercial arrangements between each of the parties. The court said that these factors meant that realestate.com.au had a licence, and was able to grant a sub-licence to RP Data. This right was either:

  • inferred from the conduct of the parties’, or
  • implied into the agreements in order to give business efficacy to the agreements.

The lack of any formal or written licensing agreement between Mr Hardingham and the agencies was a crucial factor that allowed for the legal sub-licence of the works.

Get on the same page – literally!

Without a formal licensing agreement, you are putting yourself at the risk of your works or content being used or reproduced without your permission. As a result, you can incur significant financial loss by missing out on important licensing fees you would otherwise have negotiated for.

So, if you are an artist, creative or content creator and are planning to license your copyright works to others, you should always make sure you have the crucial terms of your licence arrangement set out in a written, signed contract.

If you’d like to put together a standard licence for your works, contact us.

Author: Blake Motbey, Associate