When’s the Last Time You Reviewed Your Contract Templates?

Inspiration as Commodity by exquisitur from Flickr

Inspiration as Commodity by exquisitur from Flickr

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Photographer’s Adventure Club last week. In addition to discussion the basics of copyright and how to protect their rights in their work, we talked a lot about the importance of contracts.

I know the subject of contracts makes a lot of people’s eyes glaze over – it’s that fine-print-legalese-crap-that-no-one-reads-anyway stuff. A lot of people think contracts are boring and a lot of contracts are . . . but they don’t have to be.

I love contracts. They create the basis of so many relationships – whether they are written, oral, or pieced together through a series of emails. Too often people come to me with a question about a problem in one of their professional relationships and when I ask, “What does your contract say about this?” the answer is “I don’t know” or “We don’t have a contract.” We can still resovle the problem but we could have avoided a lot of headaches and frustration by putting everything on paper in advance so everyone’s on the same page from the beginning.

Having contract templates is often the best way to create the relationship with others that you want. In regards to photographers they should have a file of contract templates for clients who hire them, for other photographers when they have to hire an additional person to work a shoot, a copyright license for publications, a model release, and a location release. And contracts don’t have to be long, complicated, or riddled with crazy legalese to be effective. I prefer to write contracts in straight-forward English and I wish more of my legal counterparts would get on board with this idea.

And contracts can be fun. Recently I saw an episode of Man v. Food where Adam Richman took on the Hellfire Challenge at Smoke Eaters – 12 wings covered in crazy hot sauce. Before he could begin the challenge he had to sign a waiver that required the person signing to acknowledge that “I am an idiot.”

You can put almost anything you want in your contract as long as it isn’t illegal. And if you downloaded your contract templates off the internet, that’s not a bad place to look for ideas, but you should at least consult an attorney to make sure it suits your needs before you start using it. If the contract is valid and you sign it, you’re stuck with the terms so you want to make sure you’re not opening yourself up to get screwed over.

If you need additional information about the minimum you need for a valid contract, please check out my video below or here.


If you want to chat about your contract needs, please send me an email or contact a business attorney in your community.

You can also connect with me on TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTube, and LinkedIn.
Please subscribe to the Carter Law Firm monthly newsletter for additional information about running your business more effectively. Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.

How Work Made for Hire Contracts Work

Photographer Devon Christopher Adams at Ignite Phoenix #10, photo by Joseph Abburscato used with permission

Photographer Devon Christopher Adams at Ignite Phoenix #10, photo by Joseph Abburscato used with permission

If you have ever hired a third party to do photography, video work, web design, graphic design, or to create website or marketing materials for your company, you should check your contracts. If you didn’t draft it correctly, there’s a good chance you don’t own the copyright in what they created.

When you hire a freelancer or a company to create this type of content for you, you need a work made for hire contract. This contract should state that the person being hired is a contractor (not an employee) that they are being hired to create a works made for hire, and that you will own the copyright in everything they create under the terms of the contract. This contract needs to be in writing and signed before the contractor begins work on your project.

If you don’t do this, you will not own the copyright in the work. You will only have an implied license to use the work in ways specified in your verbal or written agreement. The contractor will still own the copyright in the work. If you repurpose the work in another way without the contractor’s permission, there’s a chance that you will be infringing on the contractor’s copyright. The contractor could sue you for copyright infringement or force you to buy another license to use the work. They could offer to sell you the copyright in the content too, which basically means, from your perspective, you’ll have to pay for the same work twice.

I work with companies and freelancers on both sides of this issue. I encourage companies to make sure they have a proper works made for hire in place with their contractors and to not let their contractors lift a finger until that contract is signed. I often suggest that they have provision in their contracts that states the contractor will indemnify the company against any infringement claims made against the company because of the contractor’s work. The company should make the contractor cover the attorneys’ fees and any damages if it turns out the contractor ripped off someone else’s work instead of creating the work themselves.

On the flip side, I frequently write contract templates for freelancers to ensure that they understand what rights they are retaining and which ones they are giving up. Many freelancers want contracts that give the hiring party the copyright in their work and that also give the freelancer a license to put a copy of their work in their portfolio so they can use it to obtain other jobs.  Without this license, the contractor can’t use their work in any way without risking violating the copyright that the company now owns, even though they created it.

If you are a freelancer or a company who hires third parties to create content, please contact a copyright attorney to make sure your rights and interests are protected by the terms of your contracts. You can connect with me on TwitterGoogle+FacebookYouTubeLinkedIn, or you can email me.

You can also subscribe to the Carter Law Firm monthly newsletter.
Please visit my homepage for more information about Carter Law Firm.