I need advice about licensing....

  • Okay SVSers,
    I was approached on Etsy messenger about allowing an image I sell as a print to be licensed to be printed on a Christmas Card. I asked the basic questions (how many, usage, etc.) and this was the reply:

    "The Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill is a congregation of women religious founded 150 years ago. Currently, the median age of the 135 living sisters of the United States Province, which I serve, is 82 years of age. 940 sisters have preceded them in death. The sisters of the U.S. Province are white. Historically, these sisters followed in the example of the founder, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and served in education, health care, and social services. They have been champions for people in the margins and the impoverished. They engaged in civil rights initiatives as early as 1921. (A recent article was published nationally based on the history of the Sisters of Charity supporting efforts of the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans may be found at

    https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/religious-life/news/new-orleans-and-seton-hill-sisters-bond-stays-strong-after-99-years.) We are proud that the Sisters have been recognized globally for their Christ-like love for all people in this difficult year of racial strife.

    New Orleans and Seton Hill sisters' bond stays strong after 99 years | Global Sisters Report

    In the 1960s, Sr. Sylvia Thibodeaux moved away from her Black congregation, the Sisters of the Holy Family in majority-Black New Orleans, to attend mostly white Seton Hill University, run by the white Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill in the almost entirely white city of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, about an hour east of Pittsburgh. "I was a young woman, and I had never been away when I left home ...


    A large number of our sisters are retired. A small fraction of our congregation remain in active ministry but all of the sisters actively support the social justice issues that plague our nation. Those who are able participate in local peaceful demonstrations here in Pennsylvania and those who cannot are active in prayer ministry for social justice. This is why I would like to present your beautiful image of the Holy Family to them as an option for their Christmas Card.

    Our Christmas cards are designed in house by a talented graphic designer with fidelity to the artists rendition. We have them professionally printed. In recent years we send 700-900 Christmas greeting cards. Sometimes we use the same image for our Elizabeth Seton Prayer Guild Cards. We distribute 1000-1400 Elizabeth Seton Prayer Guild Cards to friends, relatives, and benefactors who request the prayers of our sisters as a Christmas gift for their loved ones. The "Guild" Christmas cards are provided to announce the gift of prayer. Traditionally those who enroll loved ones on the Guild prayer list offer a donation to the sisters.

    We used to rely on the artwork of our sisters in years past but now because of their advancing age, we must seek out pictures of the holy family that inspire our friends and donor base with the tender reverence and love for the Incarnate Word. It is difficult to find pictures that aptly express this sacred miracle of God made man. Your art certainly captures this awesome love.

    We have only once been requested for a stipend/fee to express our sincerity. I could only offer $100 without taking the matter to the Provincial Council for permission. We do offer attribution to the artist, including a reference to the artist's copyright and website or any other specified text on the back of our cards. The image would only be used for cards that we produced for distribution this year. We do show a small low-resolution image on our website of the card. The image we choose is only used for one annual production of the sisters' Christmas greeting cards. If the same image is used for the Elizabeth Seton Guild Christmas Card, only enough cards are produced for one year.

    We would be honored if you would consider our request. May God bless you for using your gift to glorify Him. I look forward to your reply."

    Am I being asked to give away the print for charity, what would you do? (I know it's a long read...thank you to anyone who hung in there all the way through.)...Here is the image for context:
    Thank you for the advice!

  • Pro

    @Laurasketches Usually when getting asked things for charity or for lower than normal price, I ask myself one thing: will this make me feel taken advantage of? A lot of the answer has to do with how much money the person requesting the art will be making off my generosity. In this case they say they offer the cards as gifts, but later do actually specify that people give a donation in exchange. So make no mistake - this is a fundraiser in all but name. People who want to request prayers for their loved ones are expected to make a donation, and the cards are sent to everyone in their prayer club so it is basically the same as a charity sending gifts to all their best donors. Typically if charities get flowers or chocolates or cards or whatever for their donor, I'd assume they pay for this out of pocket, as an organization expense. I'm not sure I like the way they're trying to phrase this as if this isn't a gift to donors in an effort to fund the organization. It seems a bit sneaky, so is the way they say "we have only been asked for a stipend once!", quite manipulative (just say you can't pay, that's enough!).

    However the bottom line here is the money goes to the sisters (I think, though you can certainly ask what exactly the donations are going towards). Hard to argue with fundraising for nuns. If this is a cause you'd love to support and it will make you feel good to do this for this organization, then by all means! But if you think it will nag at you, make you feel even a little bit not on board, then you shouldn't feel bad in the slightest for refusing. I assume the organization will pay the printers to get all that thousand of cards printed - they will cover the cost of their materials and time because this is their living. But this is your living too, so it's entirely up to you. Personally I'm not sure I would do this one - religious organizations is not on the top of the list of charities I support, but they might be on yours!

  • Thank you @NessIllustration this is the clarity I needed.... hard to refuse nuns, but a fundraiser using my artwork for less than pennies on the dollar for my time is easier.

Log in to reply