Question:  If I have designs that I would like to try and get licensed, is it a good or bad idea to share those on sites like Spoonflower?

In my opinion:  As long as you read the terms of use and the site isn’t saying that they own the art, or have any re-publication rights that can’t be revoked, etc. I think it’s a neutral to good thing.

Don’t just click “accept” on sites where you are showing art you might want to license – READ THE TERMS like they are a contract!

I say that because I am very guilty of doing just that with certain things.  Like software that I have purchased and know I need, that has me re-commit to the terms while upgrading… I will admit to not reading all of those. 🙂  But if you are using a site to show your art – in the hopes of getting sales or getting noticed (it happens!  I, too, have read the blog posts about artists being discovered on Etsy or Spoonflower and the like) – read the terms.

You want to make sure you aren’t giving up any rights that could make it impossible to license the art later, or that you wouldn’t get back if you remove the art from the site.

man With ContractFor example (and I’m making this up just to give you an example) – say you upload art to show how it looks on a coffee mug.  The mug can even be purchased if someone finds it and loves your design.  Now let’s say you connect with a manufacturer who makes and sells mugs on a large scale and they want to license that very same art.  You want to be able to do it.

So you want to ensure that there is no language like “XYZ website has the right to sell any art uploaded for a specific product in perpetuity…”  In perpetuity means they can ALWAYS AND FOREVER use that art to sell coffee mugs.  That would be fine if the manufacturer you are now talking to doesn’t want an exclusive license (meaning they want to be the only people to sell that art on coffee mugs.)  95 times out of a 100 they do… so you want to make sure there is always a way to get the rights back, or later modify any agreement that you have with a company online.

I know contracts (and terms of use – which is a contract) are not most artist’s favorite things to think about, but they are a big part of your business if you are in the art licensing industry.  Make friends with contracts.  Understand the basic terms and what different things can mean to your rights and your business down the road.

Need help?  Check out the resources Maria Brophy and I have put together at

Here’s to your creative success – I hope I get to read YOUR story of being found on Spoonflower and the like one day too!

– Tara Reed