The Dion Beasley Trust

By Arts Law Centre of Australia on 18th April 2011

Dion Beasley is a talented young Aboriginal artist working in Tennant Creek, Northern Territory. Dion is profoundly deaf and suffers from muscular dystrophy. He has only a very limited ability to communicate. For several years however, Dion's quirky drawings of local camp dogs have been reproduced on bags, t-shirts and postcards by Cheeky Dogs Pty Ltd, a company established to help support him. When Dion was 14, Barkly Regional Arts contacted Arts Law requesting help to establish a business structure to protect the income received for Dion.

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Dion Beasley, photo by Vanille Simeon

With pro bono help from law firm DLA Phillips Fox, the Dion Beasley Trust was established.  The Trust holds Dion's intellectual property in the artwork he creates (including the CHEEKY DOG® trade mark). 

A trust is best described as a relationship where a person or company (the 'trustee') is under a legal obligation to deal with property owned by the trust ('trust property') for the benefit of some other person or persons (the 'beneficiaries'). The principal beneficiary of the Dion Beasley Trust is Dion. 

In the case of the Dion Beasley Trust, it was necessary to draft a trust deed as well as documents assigning the rights in Dion's intellectual property to the trust. Three trustees have been appointed who are responsible, among other things, for making decisions about the licensing of Dion's intellectual property and distributing the trust income.

The trustee and beneficiary relationship is also one which gives rise to fiduciary duties.  Generally, this means that a trustee must obey the terms of the trust and deal with the trust property in accordance with the trust deed, must act impartially, honestly and in good faith, and must act for the benefit of the beneficiaries. A trustee must not pursue her or his own interest in any activity which may conflict with the duties of a trustee or make an unauthorised profit or gain from his or her trusteeship.

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Drawings by Dion Beasley

The Dion Beasley Trust is entering into a formal licensing agreement with Cheeky Dogs Pty Ltd to regulate the ongoing manufacture and sale of merchandise using Dion's artwork. The Trust has also negotiated the creation of limited edition fine art prints from some of his recent works. Dion is now. The trustees hope that the income from licensing his intellectual property will help to financially support Dion for the rest of his life.

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