Archive for April, 2011

Great PSA

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Piracy affects real people and this PSA helps to demonstrate that.


Hypocrisy check

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Have you paid for every song on your iTunes? Every video? How about all of your software? Unless the item was released by its IP owner for free reproduction/distribution, I mean, of course.

Do you have videos you’ve made which have a soundtrack from your music library? Did you buy the license for that use?

Do you have a $500 “designer” item that you bought for $25?

How about your spouse/partner? And your kids? Do they have illegal downloads on their machines?

I’m betting that many of you have stuff you got by less-than-legal means or use IP in ways for which you do not have the rights. And your kids, almost assuredly so.

We cannot take the moral high ground when we ourselves are infringing on the IP rights of others or permit our families to do so. We must lead by example as much as we preach respecting copyright (and other IP protections). Using excuses like “well, it was just this once” or “I can’t afford the software” or “someone sent it to me” won’t cut it. We must be clean ourselves.

Years ago, I had illegal software. I got rid of it and told my family (who had given me most of it) that it was wrong. I still fight with my brothers about ripping and sharing. It’s not fun, but I know it’s the right thing to do.  I know I’m not hurting other creatives and/or other businesses (yes, even the big ones) who invest time, money, and effort into making these products.

I know that I’m no longer a part of the problem.

How about you? Are you an IP hypocrite like I was? You can change that today, and I hope you will. Take the time to teach those closest to you, too. And please, make sure that it’s clear that in your house, IP piracy/theft/counterfeiting in any form is not permitted.

Laugh or Die

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

In the creative industries, as in most businesses really, clients can be…um…challenging. Thank heavens for sites like Some examples of brilliant client quotes/stories:

“The logo needs to be a square…. a 2″x 8″ square….”

logo design for a client. client loves it, but wants to make a few colour changes. send proof back. client disappears off the face of the earth for months. we assume theyve changed their mind…that is until they ask us to draft up some business cards for them. they helpfully send us their ‘lovely new logo’. which is indeed lovely, but it is not new. it is the one i designed for them, that they did not pay for, and have totally rebranded themselves with.

Or this one, which I think photographers should understand:

INTRO: Client pushes for bare bottom prices on an already tiny one-off postcard
design to promote grand opening. Postcard complete. Looks awesome. Get me
outta here, way more pain than it was worth.

[enter: more pain]

client: “you did such a good job, we’d like to have the file so we can use it for our
new marketing campaign! more exposure for your work! send the files over!”

me: “Um. That’s not how it works. Your options are either licensing for use and
paying for me to design, or paying to transfer ownership rights so can do whatever
whenever you want with the design.”

client: “Why do we have to pay more? We paid you to do it, and the work is already

Another great one is the now-classic That one is even more design/creative-related so it’s always good for a groaning laugh, like:

I don’t know why you can’t do this for free.  It’s not like it costs you anything.

“In the interests of working together, I would appreciate it if you could do this free of charge.”


CLIENT: “Why is the photo grainy? It looks terrible on your flyer.”
ME: ”You sent me a zoomed in photo of the hamburger using the camera on your BlackBerry. They’re 3 mpx at the most.”
CLIENT: ”Not sure what mpx is, but if it’s like mph, then the photo wasn’t moving. The burger was on a plate. On a table. Not moving.”

And probably the best reason never to quote a day rate again:

Our contract work conditions are based on a day rate. We expect you to work the full 24 hours if necessary.


I think it’s important for us to laugh at things like this, as well as at ourselves. It helps keep us sane. There is a ton of stress in being a small businessperson and a creative one at that–laughter is a great stress reliever.

It also helps us keep things in perspective. When a client jerks you around, don’t take it personally. Don’t even take it professionally, so to speak–I mean, it’s not just photographers who get asked stupid questions, etc. Just laugh, and share it with others, anonymously of course.

Some things I learned

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Going to law school was an eye-opening experience. I learned tons. Of course I learned things like the parol evidence rule (and its correct spelling… no “e”) for contracts and the difference between Past Recollection Recorded and Present Recollection Refreshed (evidence rules). But I learned so much more that applies to everything in my life and business.

Most of all, I learned how much I didn’t know about the law before. And that, my friends, is saying a lot.

For years I had been spouting off about copyright and licensing and I was considered an expert in our industry. That was accurate–I was one and what I knew I was pretty much right about. But although it seemed like tons of info, in fact, I was only scratching the surface of those topics. I know so much more now than I did before law school, when I thought I knew a ton. Moreover, I now know that there is still a ton more to learn.

This is where we get ourselves into trouble. Because photographers and other creatives intersect with the law often in the business, we think we know more than we actually do and we speak when we should defer to real experts. The law isn’t the only area where this happens, but it is the one I know best about now and so will speak to it. Someone will post a legal question on a forum, for example, and very well-meaning colleagues will answer. Others will add their 2¢. But really, even the most articulate responses can be full of legal misrepresentations.

Besides, legal advice via committee is about as good as design by committee, and we all know how good that is.

Of course, the trouble is too many photographers think they know enough about design to design their own promos, too. But that is a different story for another post.

Anyway, back to my point, in the law, language we all use every day can have radically different meanings. Words like “presumption,” “notice,” “constructive,” and “consideration” (just to name a few) each takes on a completely different sense. Let’s look at that last one, consideration. The legal dictionary definition is “a bargained-for legal detriment.” What the heck is that? Well, courts have interpreted that to mean as little as a promise, in the right context, or sometimes much more. Consideration does not have to be of equal value in a contract, but both sides must provide consideration for the contract to be valid. Where the lines are drawn? Well, a lawyer will have read many, many cases which lay the foundation for how a court is likely to interpret the meaning of the word generally and, in your case, will research your specific details to find the best, most accurate & likely result for you. But post a question about consideration on a forum and a lay person will likely say something like “you have to pay the models something–at least give ’em a print” which sounds dangerously like a helpful answer, but may not be of any help to you at all or could even hurt you.

As was said recently in the fabulous Fuck you. Pay Me. video, you can’t be a professional if you don’t hire professionals. Lawyers, CPAs, great insurance brokers, and even designers will save/make you more money than they cost. Don’t rely on the online committee to get the help you need to be successful.

Here’s the thing: no one, no matter how much experience s/he has, can give you good advice on a legal issue except a licensed lawyer. Not even me, yet. You’d never take a prescription written by a bunch of photographers, would you? (I hope not!) Well, this stuff is just as important and specialized. Sure, we all can suggest taking an advil for a headache, but we’ll not know to ask about some other subtle symptom that makes all the difference between a headache and a stroke warning. Same goes for the law. Same goes for accounting/taxes too. There is a reason the hurdles to these professions are high–there is so much to know.

And sometimes that includes knowing what you don’t know.