Monday, December 7, 2009

Washington Spaces - Empty Space Earns Smiley Face

Former media company turned educational company Washington Post Co (NYSE:WPO) has axed one more of its under-performing assets, under the guise of blaming the economy. Washington Spaces will cease publication with the November/December issue. In an e-mail sent to clients by CEO and President of Greater Washington Publishing Company Becky Loker (LinkedIn: Profile), she refers to this as a “very difficult and painful decision.”

Suffer on, I say. Loker's publication was built upon a faulty premise that you could con photographers to give free use of photographs and cover expenses on assignments. Here is the laughable, and ill-written agreement that they attempted to foist upon contributors:

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I grant a copyright to Washington Spaces magazine to publish the said photos one time at no cost in an issue of the magazine and for use on the Web site in the context of the article. I also grant permission to Washington Spaces magazine to use the photos forever in the context of the article, on the Web site, and to promote the magazine.

I have permission from the homeowners, if applicable, and/or business owners to supply the said photos to Washington Spaces for publication.
Setting aside the illusory phrase "I grant a copyright to" (hint - you grant a right, or, you transfer copyright) it is far and away poor business to demand of your vendors "no cost" products or services. It is not sustainable, period.

Another contract they put out read as follows:

This Agreement is intended to cover any and all Works (hereinafter “the Work”) you create for use by Greater Washington Publishing, Inc. (hereinafter “GWPI”), or otherwise license for use by GWPI.

You and GWPI agree to the following terms:

1. In exchange for payment to you for each Work accepted by GWPI, you agree to give GWPI exclusive, first-time print publication rights to the Work (if applicable), as well as the subsequent non-exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, adapt or display the Work for any purpose and in any manner or medium worldwide during the copyright term of the Work, without additional compensation. The non-exclusive rights granted may be exercised in any form or media in which the Work may be reproduced, published, distributed or displayed (including but not limited to compilations, microfilm, library databases, videotext, computer databases, CD-ROM and the Internet). Provided, however, this non-exclusive license limits GWPI’s use, transfer or sublicense of the Work to inclusion in works that are marketed, distributed and/or grouped under or in association with GWPI’s name or brand.

2. Other than the rights granted to GWPI set forth above, you own the rights to and are free to sell or license the Work elsewhere following publication in Washington Spaces magazine. Any income from such sale or licensing belongs to you. Third-parties contacting GWPI for permission to use individual Works will continue to be referred to you for purposes of such sale or licensing.

3. You represent and warrant that the Work is your creation and that GWPI’s reproduction and distribution of the Work will not violate any copyright or other right of any third party.
The magazine, which published every other month, had a circulation of 80,000. It has not been stated (yet) how many layoffs will result from this, however, it's almost sure to happen, given this closing.

Here's a tip for future publications - you will attract the top creative talent (for both photographic and writing aspects) which will produce compelling content, and you will sustain that talent over time, if you pay them fees and cover expenses that are fair and reasonable. As a result, advertisers will want to be adjacent to other compelling images as they promote their own products. When planning your budget proposals for your new ventures, don't think you know what a photographer should be paid - contact a number of them whose work you respect (as seen in reputable publications) and ask them what they would charge for a variety of assignments. On more than one occasion, I have been called upon for just such a query.

Upon hearing this, more than one photographer whom you (Washington Spaces) asked to provide "no cost" photography wrote to me: "this made my day"; "more room on the news stands for the good publications"; and other even more colorful missives.

Good riddance, Washington Spaces.

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Heather said...

What a terrible contract! Good grief.

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