How does the reversal of Facebooks' Terms of Service (Zuckerberg's blog -
Update on Terms) apply to you (even if you're not using it), and what does it portend? All to often, I hear from colleagues when a new contract is unceremoniously foisted upon them bemoaning the fact that they have to sign, or they'll lose the client.
Then LOSE THE CLIENT!
If a client doesn't come to you and say "hey, we need to renegotiate our contract with you, as we need to use your photos in more ways..." which should be followed by you responding "hey, that's great, so let me think about what the additional compensation should be...", and instead just dumps it on you and says "that's our new contract, which you need to sign by the first of the month, or we can't hire you anymore", then you need to be in a position to walk away.
When you rely on just one client, (more information: Diversify For Safety's Sake, 2/3/09), you're screwed if that client forces a new contract on you. If you have more than one client, you are in a better position to negotiate.
The issue is- if it is just you balking at the contract - unless you have an exclusive set of skills or a totally unique creative approach, you will have little room to negotiate. We wrote previously about some of the flexibility between the Conde Nast contracts they first present you, and the "oh, we're sorry, we sent you the wrong one..." version (Conde Nast/CondeNet Contract: Introduction, 5/26/09). Yet, the second contract isn't much better.
So, how can you affect change? The formation of the group Editorial Photographers (history here) is an example of what can begin when a group of photographers say "enough!" and take a stand. Back in April 2004 (New York Times Contract Tells Another Sad Tale) the New York Times forced upon it's freelancers a new contract. While early efforts seemed to suggest that there would be a critical mass that would object, and cause the NYT to revisit their new non-negotiable contract, the threat of no work from the venerable NYT made too many cave-in and take it.
Enter Facebook. Within days of their new Terms of Service, which we were critical of here - Oh, We're So Sorry - Mea Culpa - We didn't mean that! - Facebook has reverted to their old TOS. Consumerist reports on this here - Facebook Reverts Back To Old Terms Of Service, and blogger Amanda French has done a side by side comparison of several other social networking sites - Facebook terms of service compared with MySpace, Flickr, Picasa, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter - and concluded that Facebook was essentially trying to throw its' weight around.
So, why the reversal?
Safety in numbers. Enough people complained, or canceled their accounts, that Facebook had to....wait for it.....say 'mea culpa'!
While contracts with wire services and many magazines are already pretty bad, and seemingly can't get worse, they will try. When that happens, make sure you are diversified, and make sure you take a stand - and stick to it - so that whatever media organization is trying to cram a new contract taking more of your rights or money away, has to reverse itself, or, in the end you walk away from and keep your dignity.
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