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Licensing Source In Conversation With Seminal: Art Of The Matter

Seminal is a trailblazer in art copyright technology, offering a unique AI-driven platform for artists and estates to protect and monetise their IP as well as a way to streamline artist-brand collaborations. LSB catches up with founder and ceo Ward Williams to find out more.

The digital age has made art more accessible than ever—but also more exploitable. That fundamental problem is one among many that Ward Williams is on a mission to fix via pioneering art copyright platform Seminal. “So many music stars have sold their IP rights and song catalogues—Justin Timberlake, Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston, to name a few. But no living artist in history, and very few artists’ estates, have ever done the same,” he explains. “When an artist dies, their IP effectively goes into the metaphorical attic and gathers dust.”

Seminal artist, Marwan Shakarchi's collaboration with Nike Air Max , 2015
Seminal artist, Marwan Shakarchi’s collaboration with Nike Air Max , 2015

Ward’s big idea was to revolutionize art licensing with a digital copyright register that makes art easily available to the world while ensuring artists are rewarded for their work. Once an artist, estate, or gallery uploads their work and verifies their copyright with Seminal, they gain access to industry-first services: AI-powered infringement detection to fight image theft, consumer product licensing opportunities via Seminal’s artist discovery platform, and passive licensing opportunities through Seminal’s enterprise network. Ward notes:

“In effect, the platform is creating critical copyright infrastructure for an industry that has typically lagged behind music, film, and literature.”

An image of Seminal's industry-first digital platform
An image of Seminal’s industry-first digital platform

Seminal’s platform is home to a growing number of artists, including big names whose works sell for millions of dollars, as well as young artists like Mexican illustrator Gawx, who has 2.5 million social media followers. To keep pace with its rapid growth, the company recently hired licensing expert Ian Woods, formerly of Warner Bros. Discovery, as head of consumer product licensing. Ward says

“Not only has Ian brought with him all his licensing knowledge, but also his close links with licensing agents that he’s worked with over decades. They are coming on board with great enthusiasm, because Seminal offers them an incredible point of differentiation. It’s unique to have a global roster of artists to take to manufacturers and retailers.”

Product Licensing Head, and art by artist and influencer
Left: Seminal’s Head of Consumer Product Licensing, Ian Woods
– former Warner Bros. Discovery Exec
Right: art by artist and influencer, Gawx

The rest of the Seminal team comprises around 50 people, based in Melbourne, LA, Miami, New York, Sri Lanka, and India, with staff in India developing the software and experts from the University of Melbourne focused on artificial intelligence and algorithms. “The fact we’ve built the platform gives us some major advantages,” says Ward. “We’re effectively collecting the global catalogue and gaining deep insights about artists, so one of the things we can do for licensees, ad agencies, and our own appointed agents is qualify the artist’s audience, and align that to a specific brand, depending on what they want to achieve with their campaign.”

“Let’s say a brand wants to grow its market in Chile. We can find them the five best illustrators, the best five street artists, the best five sculptors in that region. And because we have the media ‘on tap’, we can then turn around and execute a license at speed,” explains Ward. One of the other big value-adds when it comes to licensing is that with Seminal, licensees and brands sign just one contract. To add additional artists and media in the future, they just need to sign a simple amendment to that contract, which can save them thousands in legal fees.”

Art by Seminal artists
Art by Seminal artists.
Left: Dreamland (2022), Sofia Castellanos
Right: Jon Gray (2022), Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe

Seminal is fast establishing itself as a “one stop solution for art,” Ward asserts. “We work with brands and manufacturers directly, but we’ve also appointed licensing agents in virtually every major economy. In addition, we’re also developing our business to work closely with ad agencies, to help them craft campaigns for brands.” Seminal works with most of its artists on a non-exclusive basis, and on an exclusive basis for a smaller selection. However, for a select but growing group of artists and estates, it is effectively becoming both licensor and brand owner.

“We’re saying to these people, look, you’ve done nothing with the IP for X many years, give us the IP and we’ll create a brand that elevates and transcends the copyright. We’ll create a digital and social presence for you and provide marketing and PR material, and trademark your work. So, effectively, we’re building an exclusive brand stable with artists that would otherwise be forgotten. It’s a really rewarding part of our job, to be able to help rejuvenate an audience or find completely new ones, and share artists’ stories,” Ward explains…

“There’s nothing like Seminal in the world. And if you’re looking for an art licensing collaboration or campaign, you won’t find a better solution.”

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Article written by Licensing Source, shared by Seminal.

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