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Licensing Terms for Remodelers, Architects, and Interior Designers

February 21st, 2019

Larry in Virginia asks:

In the past, you’ve discussed having solid contract terms with real estate agents. Are there specific terms and conditions, pricing, and licensing arrangements that focus on remodeling companies, architects, and interior designers that mainly hire for photos for their websites, but also want to use the photos for print marketing such as flyers, brochures, paid advertising, sharing with subcontractors, and suppliers entering trade association competitions?

I’m skeptical that you can come up with one licensing agreement that covers the wide range of conditions mentioned above. I understand that you don’t want to tailor a license agreement for each client but you may have to have several agreements depending on the needs of the client. One single agreement that covers every situation would be quite complex and confuse some clients unnecessarily.

I’m sure there are readers out there who have faced this situation. What advice to others have for Larry?

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2 Responses to “Licensing Terms for Remodelers, Architects, and Interior Designers”

  • Having a solid “base” agreement doesn’t mean you can’t quickly modify as needed for clients with more specific needs. Start with the most typical needs and include an addendum to call out any specific additional needs. Less paperwork for those who don’t need usage beyond the base agreement; easy addition for those who do. I’m not an attorney, though, and would recommend consulting with a qualified attorney in your area if you have any questions about the terms of your agreements.

  • See if you can come up with categories for the types of customers you have. A license for a local company for their advertising. A regional company that services a larger area. A nationwide/worldwide company.
    Sharing? No. If other companies like the images you made and want to use them, they should have to come to you for a license. I’d suggest paying a commission for referrals.

    Usage for competitions can be very tricky. Some contests have very good terms and others write their entry contracts in such a way that they wind up with permission to use all submitted material anyway they like including selling it or using it for other purposes. It could be something that you have to look at on a case by case basis.

    Ashley Morrison is a UK photographer that used to be moderately active on the Flicker group and would constantly post a usage (B.U.R.) form that can be used to calculate license fees. I’m not suggesting that you should use that form, but it is a good breakdown of the many ways licenses have been doled out.

    Often licensing breaks down into a few major categories. Area/region, length of use and type of media the images will appear in/on. Another factor might be if the images will be used strictly for advertising or will also be used on tangible products being sold or given away. The size of the company buying the license can often be a multiplier for each usage. There’s a big difference between Acme Stationary in your hometown and 3M/Scotch. The weight of the contract will be much different to start with and there will be more expenses/legal fees. Keep in mind that less sophisticated customers may freak out if you present them with a contract that is too narrowly defined. Many times all they really know is that they need some photos of their work to use in advertising that is yet to be determined. If you allow them all uses for printing point of sale products (brochures, flyers, trade show banners, bus stop benches, kiosks, etc except for billboards) and use on their web site, that’s a pretty good bundle. Billboards have traditionally been licensed separately and they are getting more complex with electronic billboards that cycle through many advertisers.

    A few boilerplate license agreements can be all that you need. If you do wind up working with big companies and large contracts, spend the money on an attorney that specializes in advertising and licensing contracts. They’ll probably be able to keep you from making any really big boo boos and you Will be swimming with the sharks if it’s a company such as 3M. My approach has been to balance the complexity and effort behind how the license is formulated with the size of the sale and to keep them as simple as is appropriate.

    The last thing is to always use your license, not theirs.

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