Today’s lesson is one that I think everyone makes at some point in their career. That is jumping on a job before the contract is secured. Hopefully you do this early on, learn from that mistake and move forward. All the more wiser for it. Well I have made said mistake. In my zealousness to further my career, secure bigger clients and to expand my business I went and did a series of hotels in Atlantic City for a company. (I won’t mention them here but if you follow my blog you to whom I am referring.) Well a couple of days after the shoot they forwarded to me a copy of their standard contract. After reading the document thoroughly I was struck by their clause regarding “Copyright and Intellectual Property”. I read it over and over and over again. I then referenced my copy of “Professional Business Practices in Photography” as put out by the ASMP. At first I thought my interpretation of the clause was incorrect, but then after reading through the book, I a came to the conclusion that I was correct. What I found was that the way their contract was worded they could lay claim to any and all of my work whether related to their industry or not, including items created before the signing of the contract unless I listed every single one of them separately. Now I have over 2 Terabytes of images and to make sure that I included every image would have been at best a daunting task. So I politely sent them an email informing them that I would not be able to sign the contract the way it stood as I was not going to give up my rights to my present body of work or potentially any future work created. I also informed them that their contract would not allow me to do work for other real estate people including agents, brokers, architects, developers or contractors without them potentially laying claim to those images as well and thusly putting me at risk of a breach of contract suit from those other clients.
Jump ahead two weeks. I had not heard anything from them until I emailed them on Wednesday informing them that I was getting ready to offer the images to the hotels I shot directly or I could send them a contract giving them non-exclusive web rights for the agreed upon amount. They finally responded saying that a new contract was being written up but was tied up in legal and that I should not move forward with presenting the images to the hotels directly as they still considered what I did a “Work for Hire” even though no contract has been signed. Now in my opinion because there was not a contract in force when the images were taken, that until such time as a contract has been signed those images are mine to with as I please.
The bottom line is the fact that we are rapidly approaching the 30 day mark from the shoot. I still have not been compensated for my time or images. I have incurred the costs of driving an hour and a half from home, tolls, an overnight stay (because the shoots took longer than anticipated) and meals. Anyone who runs their own business knows that you typically wait 30 days before people even begin to think about paying you. Unfortunately it looks like it’s going to be a lot longer than that before I get paid on this gig.