IartC acknowledges the Traditional Owners and custodians of Country throughout Australia. We recognise their continuing connection to the land, waters and skies, often expressed through art.

Seeking advice before signing an agreement

Indigenous Art Code
Artist Savannah Travia-Dann reading an artist agreement. © Indigenous Art Code, 2023. Photo by Cole Baxter.

Artists entering into new partnerships, or negotiating the sale or licensing of their artwork can often feel unsure of their rights and not know if the agreement is fair.

By seeking independent legal advice, artists can ensure that they fully understand the terms and conditions by which their artwork is sold, used, or reproduced and be given clear and unbiased information from which to make their decisions.

We encourage artists to resist any pressure towards making a quick decision or signing an agreement without first having it independently reviewed.

It is unfortunately common for artists to sign or agree to terms they do not fully understand. Ethical businesses will allow time and encourage artists to seek independent advice. Support services, including the Arts Law Centre of Australia, provide a highly skilled and valuable service for artists, with support for Indigenous artists at low or no cost. Artists can access template best practice agreements, have documents reviewed by a lawyer and receive other legal advice and support.

Elizabeth Kandabuma’s Mud Ripples in ‘Wild Red Apple’ [ottoman] and Susan Marawarr’s Wak Wak in ‘Young Leaves’ [floor], from the Bábbarra Collection, with weaving from Maningrida, Northern Territory. Photo: Martina Gemmola. Artwork © Elizabeth Kandabuma and Susan Marawarr. Photo © Willie Weston

Similarly, requests for the licensing of artwork can be difficult to navigate. Every license is different, and requests can vary widely. You may wish to handle licensing requests yourself, with legal support from an agency such as Arts Law, or to work with a licensing agent such as the Copyright Agency to negotiate the terms and conditions in which your work is used. Taking the time to access support services will ensure you receive a fair deal, based on mutual respect and understanding.

“Every license is unique. A trusting relationship between the parties, backed up by independent advice, is crucial to getting licensing right.”

- Copyright Agency

Licensing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art: Information to get you going.

An Artist’s Perspective

“A close friend who is an Indigenous artist suggested that I should get in contact with the Indigenous Art Code to seek advice and guidance in what steps were needed to solve the problem that I was dealing with. 

I found legal support was easy to access, with the Indigenous Art Code acknowledging that my problem required a legal intervention. The Indigenous Art Code helped me to get in touch with the Arts Law Centre of Australia. The process was very informative and non-judgmental, with every step clearly talked about in language that you fully understand.

It is important that you make sure another person reads the contract or that you seek legal advice before signing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the contract if you are unsure about the wording. If you’re still unsure about the contract then take the time to check the details, you can talk to the Indigenous Art Code about this and they will let you know if you need to speak to Arts Law.

It is important that as an Indigenous artist you protect yourself and your artworks. It is your right and responsibility to gain legal advice on anything that does feels right. Don’t sign a contract or any binding agreement until you have spoken with legal support.”

- Indigenous Art Code member artist

Are you an artist who needs support? Contact us for general assistance and enquiries, and for referrals to legal and licensing support services.

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