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Licensing and Commissioning 

To use your work as a source of income, you can choose to license your work to others or be commissioned to create a work for another. This section assumes that the creator is also the copyright holder.

Caution: As the creator you may not be the copyright owner. Many organisations include a clause in their employment conditions which specifies that the ‘company owns all intellectual property created by employees in the course of their work'.

Licensing Your Work

Copyright Collecting Societies

You can liaise with and bill the users of your copyrighted materials directly, or can instead authorise a collecting society to do so on your behalf. Copyright collecting societies include the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA, public performance and music communication), Copyright Agency (writers, illustrators and publishers) or the Copyright Agency/Viscopy (reproduction of art works).

In many cases, collecting society terms and conditions are overseen by the Copyright Tribunal of Australia, ensuring copyright owners are paid. One disadvantage is that the collecting society -not the copyright owner- will determine the sum of any licensing fees.

Negotiating Directly

If you prefer to negotiate licensing directly with the users of your work, industry guidelines may advise on appropriate fees and charges. In determining costs, copyright owners should consider:

  • the intended use of the work,
  • whether the right is exclusive or non-exclusive
  • the scope of rights granted, and
  • the anticipated ‘profit’ from using the work.

It may also be useful to check competitor pricing, to determine the market price. Another option is charging ‘royalties’ – a percentage of sales or profits.

Note: Take care if creating your own contracts or if independently licensing your work. It is recommended to seek legal advice.


The contract should be in writing and clearly indicate who will own the intellectual property of the work: specifically, whether the you are licensing or assigning the copyright. If:

  • Licensing, you retain all financial and creative rights after the specified use or duration.
  • Assigning, you essentially grant these rights to another in perpetuity.

Regardless, you will retain your moral rights.

Commissioning your work

As a creator, you may be ‘commissioned’, which means you are paid specifically to create a work for an individual or organisation. For example, a photographer may be commissioned to take photos at a wedding.

As with licensing works, the specific scope of rights granted and applicable fees should be detailed in a written contract. Commissioned works can be the subject of disputes where these have not been made clear or where either you or your client would like to use the work beyond its original purpose. To avoid this, include information about additional fees that might apply.

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