Five Key Lessons When Working With Creatives: Legal Panel Takeaways

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Panelists from “Design Protection, Practice and Pitfalls.” Image: Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C.


On July 26th, Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C. hosted a panel entitled “Design Protection, Practice and Pitfalls” on the legal issues faced by designers, artists, and companies working with creatives.

Moderated by Nisa Ojalvo from LVMH, the panelists were both in-house and law firm professionals with experience in fashion, design, and retail. Featuring John Margiotta (Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C.), Lena Saltos (URBN Urban Outfitters, Inc.), Jill Ellman (M. Ross and Associates, LLC), and Betsy Pearce (Pearce LLP), the panelists’ diversity of experience and backgrounds made for a robust discussion on the intersection of business, art, and law.

If you missed this amazing panel, here are 5 major takeways of what to keep in mind when dealing with artists and designers:

1. Expect emotion in the legal process: the designs are meaningful to their creator and ownership of them is about more than just who gets the money; ownership represents the idea itself. The creator may feel personally attached to the idea, and emotions are sure to be present.

2. Be flexible: allow for unpredictability or personality-driven decisions when dealing with artists and creatives. Make sure you have planned for many different scenarios and leave yourself with options in case things do not go as planned.

3. Know that control is what is at stake: it’s important for artists to feel like they are retaining some control over their work and how it is distributed, rather than simply signing away their idea.

4. Recognize the importance of balancing tensions between collaborators (a company and an artist, for example) so that responsibility and risk is shared and the agreement is satisfactory to both parties. The parties may have very different priorities, and it’s important to be ready to reconcile them.

5. Be prepared for new types of clients: you may work with artists (as clients) who are different from corporations or average clients – they may be much younger, have less exposure to legal details, or have a different background, and so they may have different priorities or need to have legal concepts explained differently.

At VARA ART, working with artists, foundations and their heirs, we find these are essential values which we use in strategic planning.  We would also suggest if there are concerns on artists rights, copyright, and conservation integrity, to get sound professional advice from an experienced practitioner on VARA (Visual Artists Rights Act) and the boundaries of your creative rights. 

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Authored by Isabella Z., Associate

Cover image c/o Art/Law Network.