A few months ago, me and a few friends commissioned an artist to do a logo for our website. We described the idea very thoroughly, sending them sketches of our own which we requested them to interpret in their own style.

Going by the answers on a similar question: Commissioning work: Who owns the rights in this scenario? , I'm lead to believe that currently the image rights are vested in the artist. However someone brought to my attention that we might want to ask for the image rights if we are to "reuse" or "modify" the logo (ex. seasonal variants, as part of an animation etc.)

I'm curious if there is a way that we can "share" the rights with the artist. Is there any license which would permit:

  • The artist to continue to present the logo they've made for us within their portfolio
  • Us, as the commissioners, to use, copy and reuse/modify the logo as we so please

As a final note, our artist is based in Europe, so they'd be under EU copyright law.

  • 1
    Yes of course you can divide up the rights like this, which you'd usually do by negotiating a contract with the artist. Copyright transfers might not work, but an exclusive license to you and then a non-exclusive back-license to the artist might achieve your goals. The difficult part: who would hold the rights on your behalf, since you're a bunch of friends and not one entity?
    – amon
    Jul 19, 2020 at 5:44
  • @amon I was waiting for someone to bring up the question of how we might act as an "entity". Could we a) Have a single person act as a "representative" for a "virtual entity" or b) Ask an "entity" who we are a members of to hold the rights on our behalf? Jul 19, 2020 at 6:38
  • 1
    The alternative to an entity is a partnership, and it's quite possible that a partnership has already arisen implicitly. But that depends on your jurisdiction. In a partnership the asset's ownership would be shared among members. But it can make sense to clarify rules with a contract or charter, e.g. whether to elect a representative and how ownership is divided, e.g. equal shares.
    – amon
    Jul 24, 2020 at 18:02
  • Ok then, let's assume that we DO qualify as implicit partners. So we'll first need to negotiate a license giving us partners, exclusivity over the logo. And then a separate back-license to allow our artist to still maintain control over there work without incurring a conflict of interest with us? This first time I've ever heard of a back-license, would you be able to refer me to some further reading on this? Jul 24, 2020 at 19:43
  • I can only give general pointers, a lot here depends on your jurisdiction. I know back-license terms e.g. from Contributor License Agreements in commercial open source projects where the project receives full control over contributions, but contributors remain able to use their work; or in academic publishing where the publisher gets all the rights to an article, but grants the authors to e.g. keep a preprint of the article on their homepage. US IP lawyers tend to call this a license-back or grant-back clause.
    – amon
    Jul 25, 2020 at 11:07


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