Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Throughout the Universe, In Perpetuity....Yuck!

Previously I wrote the introduction to Ed Greenbergs' missive (When Your Agent is Not Your Friend), which talked about the agency-photographer relationship, and was critical of organizations like Corbis.

ASMP wrote back in 2001, about the Conde Nast contract, in part:

" This contract gives Condé Nast the right to license virtually unlimited additional use, in both conventional and digital media, of the images that were purchased initially for editorial use in their magazines. Condé Nast also reserves the right to prevent the photographer or illustrator from licensing any commercial or advertising use of the image, even long after Condé Nast's license is no longer exclusive...With the impressive list of titles that Condé Nast publishes (Glamour, Mademoiselle, GQ, Gourmet, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, The New Yorker, Traveler, House & Garden, Brides, Self, etc.),"
and so many photoragraphers were still signing up, with a contract that included the granting of rights to the assignment images "throughout the universe", and "in perpetuity". Imagine the gall! Yet, it clearly didn't offend a lot of people who were more than willing to sign off on such offensive contract language.
(Continued after the Jump)

So, what does Conde Nast pay? $350 a day for an assignment. The photographers I know who have signed this justify it by suggesting that it gets them other jobs and exposure, or that $350 plus the fact that you can bill for every little thing under the sun from camera rentals of your own equipment to each individual sand bag, to a cup of coffee, helps you to make it all up in the end. I don't think so, really. I find it absolutely insulting that I am told what I am to be paid regardless of my skill set, and then I must scramble around and bill for each and every C47, gel sheet, quarter-in-the-meter, cell phone call, and so forth.

Back in July, "Keri", over at the PDN forums wrote:
I photographed for a Conde Naste publication over 2 years ago, now they are recalling the film to run the story again. Shouldn't they pay a page rate fee again? or at least a research fee? When i asked on the phone they said they didn't pay anything.

And then, after two responses, wrote back on the thread:

After some research, i think i may not have any right to payments from out takes from my shoot due to the shady and tricky wording of the Conde Nast contract i signed. Aparently it is the worst contract for photographers out there. I guess i can just refuse to send the photos. It's a lesson out there for photographers to read their editorial contracts thoroughly.

Keri continues:

The problem is this, in the Conde Nast contract it has wording that essentially gives them first publication rights on all images made during the shoot indefinitely, so of course they are not going to run the same image but an out-take from the shoot.

and then, at last:

I even read somewhere how Conde Nast was trying to sell photo's as stock and not compensating the photographers. don't know if that really happened though.

Indeed, Keri. And thus, you are required to re-serve the client, at no additional charge to them, and a significant outlay of time and energy on your part. This point is worth re-stating. You don't get a research fee paid to you, nor anything else for your troubles when they recall an assignment. Nothing.

Enter Corbis. Today in my inbox lands this:

And the text reads:
Corbis now offers images from Conde Nast's Women's Wear Daily feed for news and editorial use. So when you need front row runway shots from the latest shows, red carpet portraits from today's top celebrities or luxury lifestyle images like these, you can count on the unmatched quality and access of Conde Nast.

This is what happens when you sign a contract which grants them all rights "...throughout the unverse, in perpetuity...". And don't worry, if it's just Womens Wear Daily now, soon it'll be every other one in the stable of publications. WWD is probably just a soft launch to see who will complain - not that they have any standing to do so.

From a business standpoint, part of me wants to applaud Corbis for securing the rights to this archive. To them, it's like walking out your doorstep in the morning and finding a lottery ticket worth millions just staring you in the face. Yet, I am sure that the Corbis-Conde Nast negotiations were brutal, arguing over such things as percentage domestic, international, and, of course, the uses off-planet that the photographer has just given away. I can't wait to see the moonscape dotted with billboards using images from the Conde Nast library!

So, when that mousepad, poster, or limited edition signed print by the subject is out there being sold, because a deal was cut with those depicted, you, dear contract signer are left twiddling your thumbs, and, if you wanted one of these items, get in line to buy it, you're SOL otherwise.

Oh, and remember Apple Computer using the images for their "Think Different" campaign, of people like John Lennon, Albert Einstein, and others? Those types of uses will continue, with artists (or their estates), Corbis, and Conde Nast getting paid, but again, start twiddling your thumbs, you'll get zero. This alone should get you, dear reader, to start "thinking different" about signing this contract.

To the photographers who signed these deals, don't complain, you knew better. If you got a call from a Conde Nast publication, it was because you were good and talented, with experience. Atleast most of you were smart enough to know about the industry-wide criticism by ASMP, and others, about just how bad this contract was. You knew what you were getting yourself into, and giving away - dare I say, selling your soul?

If you're not complaining so be it, pretend that you never read the above, carry on, nothing to see here, move along. If you are, well, don't waste your breath, unless it's telling the Conde Nast family of publications that you won't work under terms like you have been now that you see they are relicensing (and recalling) your assignment work, to sell your work as stock, the next time they come a callin'.
Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Robert Olding said...

I cross out every offending item in every contract I sign. This includes my contracts with Conde Nast. If they don't accept, I won't do the work. And, I've always done the work. Secretly, I think photo editors applaud myself and those that do the same.

These contracts are complete nonsense. Editorial rates are ridiculously low and for them to heap this indignation upon their vendors is ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

Conde Nast (in UK) has several contracts, at varying degrees of unsignability. The first contract a photographer sees is the worst and only if they reject it do they get a slightly less worse replacement and so on. Pays to make a fuss.

Anonymous said...

" front row runway shots from the latest shows, red carpet portraits from today's top celebrities or luxury lifestyle images"

WOW..........I can provide all that and maybe get $350.00 to boot!!

Where do I sign?

Stink Different?

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