How to profit from letting others use your work
Once you copyright your work, licensing allows you to determine who can use that work and how. For example, if you’ve written a great song and have secured copyright protection for that song you can license certain rights out to others for a profit.
Licensing doesn’t require you to give up all of your rights to your work. In fact, you can decide who you license your work to, for how long you license it, and what the licensee can do with your work. Again using our example of the song, the copyright holder can license the song to one person for use in a television commercial, to another person for use in a radio commercial, and to someone else for use in a movie. Here the copyright holder can charge each party separately. Best of all, the copyright holder can set the length of the license for however long they choose.
A graphic designer or artist can license out their work in a similar way. For example, the copyright holder could license a design to one person or company for use on t-shirts, to another entity for use on a website, and to another company for use in their marketing materials.
However you decide to license your work, licensing gives you the ability to make a profit off of your work.
Licensing does have limitations
Yes, licensing does come with limitations. Chances are that nobody will want to license work that doesn’t stand out on its own. Rarely will you hear a terrible song used in a television commercial.
But if your work is exceptional and stands apart from other works, you very well may be able to license your work out for any number of uses.
What about Creative Commons?
Creative Common Licenses do give others rights to your work. And Creative Commons offers several different licensing options that allow you some flexibility in how you license your work. But Creative Commons licenses fails in one important area: making money.
With a creative commons license, you are basically giving away these certain rights to your work forever. Creative Commons licenses do not have an end-date and as such are final. Once you decide to share your work for free through a Creative Commons license it will be next to impossible to make money off of that work.
Enough already! How do I license my work?
The first step to being able to license your work is to file for copyright protection. Once you have established that the work is yours and you own all of the rights to that work then you can begin to explore licensing options.
Click and Copyright includes some basic licensing forms with our Verified and Annual packages. While these forms are not meant to serve every licensing opportunity that may exist for you and your work, they will at the very least give you a good idea of how a license agreement works.
Depending on the type of work that you copyright there are various resources available to assist you in licensing.
For music, BMI and ASCAP offer different licensing services.
For photographers, ASMP offers licensing options and support.
Depending on your personal situation as an artist, writer, photographer or musician you may be best served by an agent or lawyer. Due to the amount of flexibility that licensing allows for, there simply isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.