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Protect Your Business With The Right Terms & Conditions

In today's world, you cannot ignore the legal aspects of running a business or selling your products.  Your livelihood may very well depend on it.  

Protect Your Business With The Right Terms & Conditions - left side art

During most online checkouts, you are prompted to click a little box that says you have read and understood the terms and conditions for purchasing that product.  Most of us click away without actually reading what it says. For the most part, you really don't have to worry about reading the fine print if you are buying something for your own personal use, unless of course it is a product that causes side affects - please read those carefully! 

There are times that you, as the seller, will need to provide terms and conditions for your customer.  This helps protect your business as well as maintaining a level of understanding between you and your customer for expectations and rights associated with your product or service.

I know what you are thinking:  "OMG, this is boring”.  I’m sorry, but it is 100% absolutely necessary for your business.  Once you get this done, you usually don’t have to do much updating later unless you are making significant changes your business policies.  Everyone’s needs are different, so copy/pasting someone else’s terms might not fit your needs perfectly.  


Note: This is not legal advice, but general guidelines for you to follow.  When in doubt for what to do in your particular situation, it is best to contact a lawyer!  I recommend RocketLawyer.


Creating Your Terms

When I created my Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy for Left Side Art, I went through RocketLawyer.  I mention these guys several times through this post and it’s not even an affiliate link!  They just simply made my life easier and I am recommending you check them out.  Their system is incredibly straight forward and easy to follow.  Their online program walks you through questions to answer and boom!  You get to download your completed forms in PDF and Word.  I downloaded both incase I needed to make minor edits, and so I could load them to my site.  

When I work with a client for branding or web design, I have a completely separate contract that is specific to the work that I will complete.  In this contract, I outline the scope of the work and timeline details.  I also detail what I need my client to provide to me and when I need this information.  Deadlines and details are important.  They help with transparency between you and your client so you both fully understand what is expected.  This helps your client know what they are getting for their money.    

So what’s the difference between Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policies, Contracts, Terms of Use, Licensing, Copyrights, and so on?  A lot.  That’s why you may need to go through someone like RocketLawyer to be sure you have what your specific business needs. 

Terms and Privacy Policies

The Terms & Conditions, T&C’s, for Left Side Art LLC are to inform users of this site like you that this is a blog, we won’t sell your personal information, the 3rd party links that are referenced into this site are not controlled by this site, and so on.  It also goes into detail that you cannot use the information I create on this blog for your own use without permission.  There’s also a few hefty paragraphs about arbitration and liability disclaimers if you feel the need to sue me - please don't.  Even with all of these terms, I still will note in certain blogs, such as this one, that this blog is not for legal advice, but is to be used as a general reference.

The Privacy Policy for Left Side Art LLC goes into a bit more detail about collection of your personal information and unsubscribing rights from the email newsletter.  When you receive my newsletter, you will see at the bottom of the email an unsubscribe link.  This was automatically included through my mail service client, MailChimp.    

Terms of Use are often used interchangeably with T&C’s.  Within your Terms of Use, you may want to include licensing, copyright, and trademark information.  If you offer more than one type of product or various uses of a product, you will want to have Terms of Use for each in cases where you want to set different rules. 

For instance, if you run a photography business, you may have varying terms set for different types of photos.  You might have some for sale that people can use specifically for their website and marketing materials where you might include a clause stating how many times that photo can be copied before they need to purchase additional licensing from you.  

You will not find Terms of Use on my site since what I need is covered in my T&C’s.  My freebie downloads are covered in my site’s general T&C’s and the clients I work with receive specific contracts outlining the terms of that agreement.

Here is an example of Terms of Use from the same company, Art.com, with three sets of terms: General Terms of Use, Photo to Art Terms of Use, and their Terms of Sale.  

Contract

A Contract is an agreement between you and your customer.  Each party involved should sign and date the contract.  Your contract needs to be as specific as possible.  This outlines the details the products you are selling and the services you are offering.  A contract will help protect you and your client throughout your agreement.  Never agree to do work without a contract!!  This rule applies to you doing work for someone else, or someone else doing work for you.  A thorough contract will keep everyone honest.

What should a contract include?

This is a quick list of items I include in my branding or web design contracts.  You may need to adjust this list to fit your specific needs.

  • Scope of work that outlines the project details
  • Pricing, including milestone payments and dates for when the payment is due
  • Timeline for completion (milestones and final product)
  • Additional work scope as requested by the client, along with an hourly or flat rate
  • Licensing agreement for how the client can use the finished product (i.e. marketing materials)
  • Copyright stating the client may not resell the finished products (i.e. logo or branding palette)

Artist-Agent Agreement

When you are at a point in your creative career where you need to hire an agent to represent you and your work, you may need an artist-agent agreement.  This agreement would outline the requirements and expectations you demand of your agent, or if you are an agent representing an artist.  An agreement would state what pieces of art the agent is to promote, how many times or places they are to do the promotion, how often they would aquire a new piece of art completed by the artist, the terms for if a piece of art becomes damaged during a promotion, and so on.     

Licensing

As a creative entrepreneur, let's say you are selling a digital product such as a photograph to be used for marketing purposes.  The customer should know exactly what they can use the photograph for and how many times they can use it.  Your contract may outline a specific type of license for different projects as noted above for “photo to art".  A license will clarify if your customer can resell, copy, modify, or reuse the photo they purchased from you.  For example, can they put it on printed marketing materials and adjust the image in Photoshop?  How many copies can they print before they have to purchase an extended license?

The American Society of Photographers provides guides for photographers but many of their guidelines apply to other creatives as well: How to create a license, How to license photography.  They review the differences between commercial, editorial, and retail photography.  They also have a section about Property and Model Releases for people or property that you may be photographing.  

The ArtLawJournal provides a free downloadable licensing agreement for creatives.  If you do use one of these free downloads, please use with caution and expand on it as you see fit for your business.

I often download fonts from Creative MarketMyFontsDaFontA-ZFontsFontSquirrel.  Each font you download has a specific license attached to them.  Often, they are for personal use only.  Others will permit you to use it in a project that you are selling to a customersuch as a font that I might use in a customers logo.  For some of these cases, you have to pay more for an extended license depending on your situation.  And in most cases, you cannot resell the fonts.  

Copyright

The copyright symbol does not have to be displayed for you to own the copyright.  The second you create something, the copyright automatically belongs to you.  The copyright to a photo will still belong to you even after you have sold the piece unless you purposely relinquish your copyright to the new owner.  Even though this right is automatically yours, you may want to outline this in your contract as a friendly reminder.   

If you sign a contract clause called "Work Made For Hire" agreement, the work you produce may belong to the hiring party and not you.  The same applies if you are creating work under employment of a company, that work likely belongs to the company you work for.  When in doubt, check your company's policies and any paperwork you may have signed at the beginning of your employment.


Note: This is not legal advice, but general guidelines for you to follow.  When in doubt for what to do in your particular situation, it is best to contact a lawyer!  I recommend RocketLawyer.


Long story short, CYA.  Your business needs T&C’s, a Privacy Policy, perhaps Terms of Use, and a good solid contract to provide your clients.

A few minutes of your time to complete some simple questions from RocketLawyer will prove to be invaluable if you should ever be involved in a legal situation.

I realize this is not the most exciting thing you could be doing today, but drop what you are doing and get this done!