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Monday, March 3, 2008

Your Studio And The New Economy

Pursuing a solid licensing strategy for now and the future will enable you to weather the storms of today's photo business reality

More importantly, as you get more vigilant about extending more usage licenses, you have to be able to manage them as well. Don't get tempted to give away usage because you think it will be inconvenient to track it. That attitude is a contributing factor to the apathy and sometime blatant disregard toward usage rights that has pervaded our industry. The idea is that you're constantly considering the context of how your work is licensed to be used.

By the same token, you don't want to license yourself out of a deal. Usage licenses that are too complicated may scare away your client. The licensor of your images should be able to quickly get a clear understanding of what he or she is buying. If you try to be too clever with your language, there's a possibility that you'll get passed over.

New Internet Licensing Categories
When you make up a usage license for a client, don't use the catchall category of “Internet Usage” anymore. Be specific about the Internet usage your license covers. This is important because the Internet has become such a significant part of everyday life that online licensing needs to be thought of like print licensing.

The hard part is that Internet-based ads are inherently global—a word that, in a print campaign, is associated with the kind of money that gets you dreaming about new computers and exotic vacations. Online, the geographic location where an image can be used isn't a consideration. The only conditions you can dictate in Internet usage is how your image is used and how long it's used.

The following list of five categories was created with the generous advisement of Michelle Bogre, a copyright lawyer specializing in photography, who's the Chair of the Photography Department at Parsons The New School for Design in New York where she also teaches the subject of copyright and rights management.

E-Mail Campaign. Many companies will send an e-mail blast to all of their customers. If your work is to be featured in an e-mail blast, it's a usage-rights consideration. Define the number of e-mails that your image can be used in by blocks of 1,000, for example “up to 1,000” or “up to 10,000.” If there will be multiple e-mail blasts, have the client tell you approximately how many e-mails per campaign and then base your number accordingly.

Home Page Usage. Is your image to be used on the client's home page? This is important because it's the landing page for all of your client's customers. That's a potentially enormous amount of exposure.

Web Banner Advertising. Will the image be used as part of a banner ad campaign? You know all those online ads you see on Websites like CNN.com as well as a lot of pro blogs—those ads get a lot of exposure, which means more usage money for you. This also is a time-sensitive usage element. Much discussion has surrounded trying to control the number of views in thousands of impressions (CPM) that your image gets as part of a Web banner ad campaign, but in my opinion, this is too difficult to predict or to track. Use a time restriction in terms of months or years.

Internal Blog Usage. Your client may want to use your image on a blog as a marketing tool. This should be considered, too. But be careful about this element. If a blog other than your client's blog writes a story about your client and uses your image to illustrate the story, this falls under the fair use exception in the copyright law. That means the blog can legally use your image without compensation to you.

Online Sales Illustration. If you shoot a print catalog for a client who has an online catalog or store as well, you need to address that usage specifically.


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