Friday, January 20, 2017

Bo's bLAWg - Online Licensing Websites (VIDA / ShopVIDA)

 MJ Bogatin (“Bo”) of Bogatin, Corman & Gold, is an Arts and Entertainment Attorney in San Francisco.  He is also Co-President of California Lawyers for the Arts. Bo is available to answer some of your questions surrounding the business of Art Licensing. - THANKS BO!

I've known several artists approached by VIDA.  I'm attaching their Artist Contract and am wondering what you think of its terms?  Montana

Thanks for your question, Montana.  I have had occasion to consider a few different online licensing websites.  Some, like VIDA, promote themselves as a “Manufacturer on Demand.”  I doubt that they themselves are manufacturers.  They are more likely, the “intermediary.”

I can see how an online website licensing would be an attractive business model to entrepreneurs who have relationships with manufacturers (or their US tradeshow representatives).  If the website can sign up lots of artists, it is possible that they can make a lot of money from the sales of products with artists’ designs, whether to the public – or even more likely, to the very artists whose artwork has been licensed.  Many artists just want to see their work featured on products, from placemats to scarves.  If the online licensee can entice the artists themselves to purchase enough of a given product – and the manufactured product prospects are unlimited -- current digital imaging allows the manufacturer to easily change out designs.  Small quantity orders of a few hundred units can be profitable with overseas, non-union manufacturing, with a generous mark-up on the re-sale of such inventory to artists -- and possibly to retailers.

As for the licensor artists, I suspect that this not an unduly expensive way to obtain a decent inventory of select products bearing their designs.  However, I doubt that there are many commercial success stories generated from sales from these websites.  If I am in error on this, I would like to be informed of it!

When I dig into VIDA’s, not only do I find some very objectionable terms, I also find an emphasis on asking the artist to invest in the purchase of models promoting their pending product line, and discounts available for purchasing $300+ of the merchandise.  If every artist who signs up agrees to the marketing photos and a minimum purchase of select products with their very own designs, clearly, the business model has income potential to the purveyors if not the artists!

Upon signing up with VIDA and uploading two illustrations, it is my understanding that artists are asked to become “a featured designer on VIDA with a Curated Collection.”  In conjunction with this invitation there is an ask for money summarized as follows:

To claim your curated collection, you can use one of two private codes listed.  With “Code Curated 25,” the artist is invited to receive one professional lifestyle photo of a model wearing an item from your collection.  Check out with $300+ worth of merchandise in your cart and enter the promo code, “Curated25” at checkout, and 25% will then be taken off your order.  You will also get a curated collection page with one professional lifestyle photo of a model wearing an item from your collection, and at least one of your products product featured on the VIDA Shop All page with professional lifestyle photography.

If you select Code Curated40, you receive three professional lifestyle photos of a model wearing items from your collection.  Check out with $900+ worth of merchandise in your cart and enter the promo code, “Curated40” at checkout, and 40% will then be taken off your order, and you will get a curated collection page with three lifestyle photos of a model wearing items from your collection, and at least one of your products featured on the VIDA Shop All page with professional lifestyle photography.

Again, this is an extremely limited offering since we can only offer curated collection upgrades to a small group of artists. Since we have limited space for curated collections, we are limiting the availability to upgrade your collection until just October 30th, only 4 more days.”

This promotional material is said to be “extremely limited,” but as far as I know, it has been posted indefinitely.

Of critical importance, as always for me, are the terms that are imposed by the website licensee on the artist who clicks “Agree.”  As for the VIDA Agreement, , I have a number of concerns about its terms, many of which are wholly objectionable.

With reference to my prior Basic Licensing Terms bLAWg, , note first that the grant of rights to any images uploaded is immediately “exclusive and perpetual.”  This means that whether or not anything is made of the artist’s imagery, (and there is no guarantee that there will be!), the artist has no further right of use to it for licensing purposes!

Furthermore, the artist gives up any right to object to the way in which her imagery may be used on any given product – by itself or in combination with other imagery -- or the quality of the product itself!

While VIDA requires the artist to provide their photograph and biographical material, there is no obligation on VIDA’s part that it will post or use this information in conjunction with its promotional efforts on behalf of such artist. To the contrary, in an accompanying “Plain English Terms” explanation of the Agreement, VIDA makes clear that artist imagery may be used without a copyright notice or artists brand or logo.  This not only deprives the artist of a key reason for licensing her imagery, but suggests to the public that there is no copyright claimed on the imagery used on the products, and the prospect of unlimited “innocent infringement” with minimal damage claims despite artist’s registered copyright.

A Ten Percent is offered on VIDA’s “Net Sales.”  Revealingly, this 10% is offered as a “sales commission” to the artist rather than a royalty.  By calling it a “sales commission,” clearly VIDA expects the artist to be the seller – not VIDA or retailers to which it is ostensibly marketing the products.

The Net Sales definition includes “discounts” and “bad debts,” neither or which would the artist have any control over.  Too bad if it was Uncle Lenny who failed to pay for those 500 units that he bought wholesale for resale to retailers of his acquaintance(!)   And to make matters even worse, the VIDA Agreement expressly rejects any obligation to verify its listed sales information or an audit, both of which are standard provisions in legitimate licensing deals.

If these particular provisions are not bad enough, VIDA then states that it “reserves the right to change these terms at any time.”  Somehow, I doubt such changes will be for VIDA artists’ benefit!

It is my understanding that there are a number of such online businesses including Society6, RedBubble, Art of Where, Minted and Bucketfeet.  If you have questions about their contract terms, I’d be pleased to comment on those as well.

Disclaimer:  The information contained in this website is not intended and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Because the law is not static, and one situation will differ from the next, the results will differ as well, thus we do not assume responsibility for any actions taken based on any information contained herein. Also, be aware that the laws vary from state to state. Therefore, this website cannot replace the advice of an experienced attorney who practices within the jurisdiction involved in your issue or dispute. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. MJ Bogatin, Bogatin, Corman & Gold
© 2017 mjbogatin

Have a legal question? email it to I will forward it to Bo. It might be a blog post! You can search "Bo's bLAWg" to read more posts. I am looking forward to your comments and thanks for sharing this great information on social media.


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  1. Hey everyone, Just posting a test comment, Got a complaint that the comment section isn't working :)

  2. THIS is why I won't use POD sites. They are a great business model... for them. For artists, it's giving away the farm in exchange for a pittance. Thanks very much Annie for posting, and Bo for spelling it out!

    1. Hey Sarah! So great to "see" you! I really appreciate you stopping by the blog. Just to note, I am sure that not all POD sites are exactly the same <3

  3. Bo and Annie,
    Thank you for this information. I have been considering VIDA as a potential revenue stream. Based on this article, I now know not to waste my time with them. Much appreciated!

    1. So Welcome. I really appreciate you stopping by the blog and commenting! :-D


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