Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Safety In Numbers

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.


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.

(Continued after the Jump)

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.

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.


Anonymous said...

It seems that Facebook is going to be requesting input from it's new TOS agreement. See the last paragraph of this link With that in mind it's an excellent opportunity for all of us photographers to get our associations, ASMP, APA, PPA, to negotiate with Facebook and insure the copyrights for the content posted. Even is you don't use Facebook, it's worthwhile to get our associations to protect the rights of our industry. This could be the starting point for changing the public's attitude on copyright issues. Please take 10 minutes to write, email or call you association, as well as Facebook, and effect some change. You have nothing to loose and a whole lot to protect. If you don't care about your rights, who will?

Thank you for taking the time to read my comment.

Anonymous said...

If Facebook wants to throw it's weight around then maybe we should counter with a swift fist to Zuckerberg and Co's balls.

Dump your Facebook account.

It's nothing but a cyberspace garbage dump where needy nerds go to pretend that they have some social standing.

Get your own webpage and market yourself the right way instead of depending on your Facebook "friends". In this tough economy those "friends" are more apt to attend a flash mob gathering than help you get work to pay bills dump the account already. Stop wasting your time making "friends" while these wolves think up creative and sneaky ways to steal your material.

If Facebook wants to steal content, then let them take the rights of the digital swill high schoolers post on those worthless pages. Let's see what kind of revenue they can get from that digital garbage.

And if you really truly want friends, well take a cooking class.

Anonymous said...

More gas to add to the Facebook fire.......

Read that and keep putting your personal information up there for your "friends" to have access to.

Jim Goldstein said...

While the backtracking by Facebook is a good sign their ToU is still awful. The only thing their actions have done is curb a mass exodus and stem an out of control PR problem. We'll see how much feedback they really take in and what action they take.

I've been warning photographers about their ToU since February of last year. Facebook has done nothing since but sneak changes in and become increasingly greedy with the rights they grab of their users. This behavior is indicative of a flawed culture where corporate lawyers are not kept in check and develop terms counter to the nature of the community that has been built. We'll see if the business is able to keep the lawyers in check or not and whether this is just a stalling technique that their PR department/firm is managing.

I'm not holding my breath and i'm sure as hell not uploading any digital media to Facebook.

With that being said I'm glad that the gut reaction of their membership prompted such reaction. I'm not sure individuals thought about safety in numbers as most people's livelihood is not dependent on Facebook. None the less I'm happy to see after the fact that people found the power to push for change as individuals and as a large group.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that you have no idea of what Facebook is about. You've only showed us your sophomoric ignorance.

You spewed:

Anonymous said...
If Facebook wants to throw it's weight around then maybe ...

Anonymous said...

Richard Nixon's White Counselor kept an old Green Beret slogan from the Vietnam War on the wall of his White House office: "When You've Got 'Em By The Balls, Their Hearts And Minds Are Sure To Follow."

Too many photographers' testicles are firmly held in other hands.

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