Monday, December 3, 2007

Safety In Numbers

Babel was a city like no other. A city where people were unified and spoke the same language, in ancient times, a city with a tower. The Tower of Babel. The story goes that the city's occupants were cast to the wind, forced to use a fabled 72 languages, confusing all who tried to communicate with one another.

Since then, series like Star Trek have had devices like the Universal translator, and in fact, in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, it was the Babel Fish that provided universal translation.

The US has standardized our currency, so that we all deal in dollars, to avoid possible unknown, or illegal alternative currencies. One well known foreign currency was that issued during the civil war, called Confederate States of America Currency, as shown here.

Private industry too has standardized. How, for example, do you describe pink? Is it pink skin, pink like a pig, pink like bubble gum? Is what you see as pink on your monitor and approve to have 10,000,000 widgets made the same pink that I see on my monitor? If not, who's going to cover the costs to remake the widgets when you're not happy? Pantone provided a solution, and now every designer, print shop, ink maker, and so on all operate based upon a specific Pantone #. The Pantone # I was thinking of when I said "Pink", by the way, was Pantone 1767. (adding the "C" means that the color is one coated with a finish.)

How about us photographers? Can we standardize what we do?

(Continued after the Jump)

Yes, but wait a minute, this next one's really good.

In order to save your life, the American Medical Association has created what are called CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) and HCPCS (Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System), so that when a doctor orders a Platelet Count or a Hemoglobin count, they use a series of numbers. The HCPCS codes are standardized by the US Department of Health & Human Services here, and the CPT codes are standardized by the AMA here. When your doctor places a check in the box next to "005249", the nurse knows what test to order, the lab knows what test to perform, doctor's billing department knows how much to bill, and the insurance company knows that they are paying for a Platelet count, and not a Hemoglobin test (which would be 005041 by the way).

Thus, no more mistaken tests, re-drawn blood (ouch!) because of an error, or a positive returned for high cholesterol which is seen as a positive for low white cell count. This is real life here.

So, where am I going with all this? Yes, there is safety in numbers, and a standardized system for licensing your creative works, it's called the PLUS System, and it's FREE. I interviewed the CEO of PLUS, Jeff Sedlik in a a video here at this past year's PhotoPlus Expo, and there's a great example I wrote about in Detailing Understandable Rights Packages - Editorial Covers back in August. I even wrote more about them back in April - PLUS + You + Client = Clarity and Understanding.

Check out PLUS's description of these terms and the accompanying PGID number: Collateral; or the variety of clarity needed for packaging; the ambiguity of the word advertising; and the misnomer that is advertorial.

What about the client who demands "all rights"? How can you placate that request? Try granting them (with the appropriate fees):
PLUS (Rights Ready) Packs
All Commercial Use (PRCU)
Use in any medium intended for advertising and other commercial or promotional purposes.
Be sure to specify: Duration, Region, Region Constraints, PLUS Industry, End User, Product or Service Name, License Start Date
Back in the magazine sample, I have a sample license written out with the PLUS language in it.

While using PLUS codes may not be as life-saving as HCPCS codes, they will save you (and your client) a world of misunderstandings when it comes to who can do what with your photographs.

Thus, there is safety in numbers (and standardization).

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.

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