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Call to Freelancers - Amateur looking for advice - "Intellectual Property"

hey, thanks for clicking

I recently signed a contract with a small business as a photographer. It is a “work-for-hire” position where the Producer (company that hired me) owns all rights (in perpetuity) of my images. I know you might be thinking “how could you!” “never give away your rights!” “bad move!”.. but I’m desperate to step in to the business.

I picked up the ASMP’s “Professional Business Practices in Photography” and now understand the importance of holding on to the rights of one’s intellectual property and licensing work to different people/businesses. My question…. Is it possible to come up with a new contract (or an amendment to my contract?) that would still give the Producer all the rights it would need (determined in collaboration) through me licensing my photographs to them?

As a photographer, would I potentially have the right to own my images and license them out in this particular situation?

Is there a specific distinction between a Freelancer and a “work-for-hire” ?

I feel that the contract (in short, I grant all rights of my work to the Producer) is like it is because of… not ignorance.. but unwillingness to find out what is needed to respect the photographer’s rights. I think if I were to come up with a simple easy to understand contract that they would agree and understand where I’m coming from.

Is it reasonable to be asking for this as a photographer with little professional experience?

I have a lot of questions, and a lot of reading to do lol. I just wanted to get some thoughts down and see if anyone could help. It would be very much appreciated.

Best,
John Lizarazo

p.s. its late – let me know if you don’t understand something I’ve written

p.p.s. I just finished reading “Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics” by Strauss… would recommend to anyone

by John Lizarazo at 2009-12-02 05:40:17 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

How could you. Never give away your rights. Bad move!

Seriously, it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, if you’re working as a professional photographer you should still do your homework and make sure that any contract you sign protects your rights. With all due respect, when beginning photographers sign such contracts it makes it harder for them (and all photographers) to stay in business.

It may be difficult to amend or renegotiate a contract after you’ve signed it. You’d have to speak with the client and ask, but you’re already bound by the work for hire agreement and it would benefit the client little to change it.

Of course, if you had taken the time to figure out what the contract meant, negotiation would have been much easier before you signed the contract.

It may be that the producer just grabbed some boilerplate contract and doesn’t really need to own the photos in perpetuity. If they’re reasonable maybe you can void the old contract and make a new one. But it sounds like you got screwed since you didn’t know what you were signing.

by Noah Addis | 02 Dec 2009 19:12 | Philadelphia, United States | | Report spam→
I think perpetuity is something clients request because they think they can get it, not because they really need it.

I lost a commercial contract recently because the client wanted global exclusivity and perpetuity (but not copyright, ???). I priced accordingly and it was a bit of money… but not unreasonable given the requirements.

We all need to take a stand against devaluation of original photographic work.

by Mark Ovaska | 02 Dec 2009 20:12 | Rochester, United States | | Report spam→
Let me take a slightly different position.

Photographers need to know the meaning of the elements of licensing. Mark touches on it, but you must be able to explain to a potential client the meaning of licensing terms — copyright, exclusivity, geographical scope, term of license, etc., You need to be able to talk about them in the context of the needs of the client. As he implies, once they understand the licensing issues, clients often realize that they do not need to own the copyright, or have perpetual exclusivity.

But sometimes they do. For example, if you are photographing a work for a key series of advertisements, the client will not want you to be able to license the images to someone who competes with them. Or if shooting a client’s activities which are controversial, the client may not want you to be able to license the images to their critics or others whose message is not aligned with theirs. Neither want to lose control of their message. You may not like that, but that may be their need (or perceived need).

If you still want to do the work for that client, you need to discuss that issue with them. They need to understand that because they want the “tail” of the value of the images, the present value is therefore much greater and they should expect to pay more. You should then price accordingly.

In short, your default position should be to license limited and defined rights to your images to a client. But if they want to go beyond that (and commercial clients will do so frequently), you should be prepared to make them understand that the pricing can be much greater. But falling on your sword if they want more rights, even copyright, is not a rational course of action. Just get paid for it.

by [former member] | 02 Dec 2009 22:12 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Here Here! Thank You Neal!

Pricing should always be based on usage:

http://editorialphotographers.com/
http://cpm.aiga.org/content.cfm/pricing-strategies-for-a-value-driven-industry
http://designarchives.aiga.org/entry.cfm/eid_346
http://www.cradocfotosoftware.com/fotoQuote-Pro/index.html

That last link will be one of the best investments you could make as a photographer, software that includes an excellent negotiation tutor.

Cheers
Seth

by Seth Butler | 02 Dec 2009 23:12 | Barnard, VT, United States | | Report spam→
Absolutely. There are two issues: First, client education. Ensuring everyone is at the table with the same understanding. This is a much bigger issue than any business person would prefer to talk about. The fact is, the reason they are hiring you is because they don’t know, not because they do. So client education is largely unavoidable no matter what your expertise.

Second, not charging enough. Inexperienced business people price from the bottom up. Meaning, they will do an estimate of costs and then tack on a margin of profit. This methodology tends to devalue hard-to-quantify variables like experience, market, exclusivity, etc… Experienced businesspeople do the opposite. They know the market and they understand the value of their product. They are educated about their clients and the client’s true needs. And, because of this, they can price competitively according to the true market value of the product.

So, to quote Neal, “Just get paid for it.” Exclusivity, perpetuity, even copyright. Those are not the hills to die on. Where the issue lies is whether or not you’re getting paid appropriately for those economic concessions.

by Mark Ovaska | 03 Dec 2009 00:12 | Rochester, United States | | Report spam→

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Participants

John Lizarazo, John Lizarazo
New York , United States
Noah Addis, Documentary Photographer Noah Addis
Documentary Photographer
Philadelphia , United States ( PHL )
Mark Ovaska, shoe wear-er-out-er Mark Ovaska
shoe wear-er-out-er
Berlin , Germany
Seth Butler, Photographer Seth Butler
Photographer
Barnard, Vt , United States


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