Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Clients. Lie To You, They Will.

Today, not only did a photographer ask me for advice when a potential client wanted a photo to use in their corporate logo in exchange for a credit (What are they going to do, put his URL in their logo?) John Harrington posted this little story on his Pro Photo Business blog...

Photo Business News & Forum: Conde Nast, Encyclopedia Britannica - Selling "Their" Images

(Summary: Magazine demands full re-use and relicense rights, for no extra fees, from assignment photographers. Despite assurance to the contrary, magazine goes on to relicense the images without sharing any revenues with the photographers. Several other large publishers are revealed to be doing the same.)

I know it will come as a HUGE shock to you, but people will lie, cheat, and steal. They will also, and hopefully much more commonly, just say one thing and change their minds later. Or perhaps the person who did the deal with you gets fired, and a new person takes over, and says, "Hey! We're sitting on a gold mine with all these rights. Let's do some business!"

On that last point, I have had people I was negotiating very large deals with actually say things like, "Oh, you know we'd never [do something I was trying to prohibit in the contract.]" And you know what? I believed 'em. I'd been doing business with some of them for years and they were honorable people. But you know what else? They could get hit by a bus tomorrow and somebody less honorable, or just with different ideas about what was acceptable behavior and what wasn't, could take over management of those rights. I get paid to anticipate my client's future problems, not just shake hands with my friends. I'd be remiss in my duty as an advocate to sign over rights without appropriate compensation, "understanding" or no "understanding."

While I rarely came right out and said, "What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow," I was very straightforward with them. I would reply, "I know that, and I appreciate the relationship we have. But I have to think about what happens to these rights five and ten and twenty years from now. Can you promise me you won't retire or get promoted or that for any other reason somebody with a different mindset might eventually have control over these rights and decide to go in a different direction?" That almost always allowed the conversation to progress without casting any aspersions on the current relationship, and when it didn't, well, sometimes deals aren't worth the risk. I know it's hard to turn away money, but sometimes that's what you do. More often than not when you make it clear you'll walk away, unless they were totally fishing they'll come around anyway!

This is what lawyers are for, people. This is the value we add. We stop people screwing you over. Or, more charitably, we make sure our clients fully understand the implications of the agreements they make and help them ensure that the agreements reflect a full and fair understanding of the transaction the parties have agreed to. Pay us now or pay us later... or don't pay us at all and watch people with their own lawyers and/or a lack of scruples profit from your hard work.


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