(4 minutes to read} In July’s blog, I discussed the convergence of the fashion industry with new technology. Now, there’s a hot new convergence of the art world and technology.
In fostering her own “second act,” actress Portia de Rossi recently launched an online venture called GENERAL PUBLIC. The CEO/Co-Founder summarizes her art publishing and curation business below:
“I formed my company, GENERAL PUBLIC, with a view to bring good art to more people. As a long-time art lover and collector, I became fascinated with the concept of reproducing paintings using 3-D technology because I believe the artist’s work should be shared by as many people who wish to own it and not just enjoyed by one collector.”
GENERAL PUBLIC buys original works of fine art from the artist, creates exacting prints with SYNOGRAPH™ technology, then sells them directly to consumers. SYNOGRAPH™ prints are textured, so they look and feel like the original. Artists receive a royalty from sales. This business is a WIN-WIN for artists and art fans alike!
GENERAL PUBLIC has also partnered with RH Modern (f/k/a Restoration Hardware). Prints on RH Modern/General Public Art and in RH galleries are an exclusive collection, different from those sold by GENERAL PUBLIC.
Legal Brush Strokes
GENERAL PUBLIC’s business model appeals to me because it supports artists rather than just exploiting the art, and RH Modern’s partnership bridges the gap between the decorative and fine-art markets.
The first thought that came to mind, however, is how suitable I am to be the attorney representing this innovative business.
This model depends on the type of deals I typically work on, and in representing this client, I would leverage my 20+ years of experience with fashion merchandising and new media clients. I routinely draft contracts necessary to structure this business from a corporate legal perspective:
- Purchase and Sale Agreements between GENERAL PUBLIC and artists — this may be a simple invoice.
- Royalty Agreements between GENERAL PUBLIC and artists — this provides future royalty payments to artists.
One may think the art market is arbitrary, but if I represented GENERAL PUBLIC, I’d seek to discount the upfront price paid for the original work and back-load the royalties. This may be easier to negotiate with emerging rather than established artists. Royalty payments come with accounting and tax implications, but a guaranteed future revenue stream from past work is a novel and likely compelling prospect for artists.
If I represented the artist, I’d recommend getting audit rights, and rights to review GENERAL PUBLIC’s books and records.
- License Agreement for SYNOGRAPH™ — this sets forth rights and restrictions related to use of the trademark and technology (IP), whether the relationship between GENERAL PUBLIC and the IP rightsholder is exclusive, the term of the license and renewals, the amount of the license fee, and what happens if there is a breach.
- Partnership Agreement between GENERAL PUBLIC and RH Modern — I’ve negotiated retail partnership deals with several major retailers on behalf of my fashion merchandising clients. These complex arrangements are challenging because often the parties have directly competing interests. Successfully finessing my way through these tough negotiations is a professional achievement of which I’m proud.
Hey Portia, are you looking for an art-loving lawyer?
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