DIGNITY FOR DESIGNERS
IVAN HOFFMAN, B.A., J.D.
Let me speak about dignity.
And self-respect. And self-worth. And the beauty. And the beast.
I don't know what Internet you all are on but the
Internet that I am on is about big bucks. If you spend any time on the
Net you know that it has become a haven for people and corporations seeking
to make money. There is, in my opinion, absolutely nothing wrong in that.
We live in a free market and that system has produced gains that are unknown
elsewhere in the world or in human history.
But we're dealing now with corporations with staffs
of attorneys. We are dealing with site brokers who contract with those
corporations, get the big bucks, and then pay you little (or in a growing
number of instances I'm afraid, nothing) to do all the work. They all have
attorneys. You are at a free market disadvantage when you do not.
As talented graphic designers, your work is about
beauty. As an attorney representing talented graphic designers, my work
is about protecting you from the beast. If you have enough self-respect,
enough belief in your talents, enough dignity, then you should be willing
to translate that respect, belief and dignity into the business side of
your work. It is not enough to be talented; if your talent does not produce
real world, satisfying results-money-the same talent that blesses you can
curse you. Just ask Vincent. Do you wish to be talented and frustrated
or talented and successful?
I have represented creative talent all of my rather
lengthy and reasonably successful professional career. I am also a professional
writer and so know the creator side of the equation as well. I know that
talent often does not see herself or himself as being worthy of being adequately
paid for that talent. "You mean someone's going to pay me to sing a song?"
"Or write a book?" "Or create an animated gif?"
You are entitled to benefit handsomely from your
talent but if you approach your business with a hand-crafted, cut and pasted
agreement that does not adequately protect your creative rights on a web
site, you are saying to the business world, the beasts if you will: "I
don't respect myself enough to bargain for what I am worth. You take it
all and give me little or nothing."
I know many of you believe you can use blank form
contracts created by other designers or somehow posted to the Net. Would
you take out your own appendix? Or fill your own cavity? Is it that you
believe you can draft your own contracts because they are in English? (though
some would say they are not). Practicing law and drafting contracts is
an art form, one filled with the need for specialized knowledge. Clauses
in contracts mean something, alone and in conjunction with other clauses.
Cutting and pasting without the larger body of legal knowledge that the
contract is supposed to be addressing is as bad a decision as removing
your infected appendix by yourself.
You go out and spend $1,000.00 or more on a scanner,
on Photo-Shop, on miscellaneous stuff and that's not including your computer.
You spend all that to do your creative work and then you jeopardize all
that investment by failing to have a well-drafted agreement that adequately
protects your rights. In your attempt to save money, you may end up spending
much more money to remedy what you have done incorrectly. I have been at
both the litigation table as well as the negotiation table and it is clear
that "help me" is far cheaper for the client than "fix me."
Web design law is a complex and highly innovative
area of the law. Not something someone should be off-handedly tinkering
What you are doing appears to me to be not only a
reflection of a lack of self-worth, but a rather poor business approach.
Take a moment and read an article on my site entitled "The
Do It Yourself Publishing Lawyer." It is equally applicable here.
Today's web site is potentially tomorrow's feature
length motion picture. Someone is going to profit off of your creativity.
If someone's going to profit, it should be you-the beauty. Not the beasts.
Look down the road with vision not with fear.
Now if you believe all that I have written is merely
self-serving, so be it. Click off now.
But if you believe there is merit in what I have
written, then yes, of course I charge a fee for my agreement. But the agreement
is designed to be protective of your rights. The agreement says to the
business world, the beasts, "I am worth it!" "I have dignity and a belief
in myself!" And the fee I charge is far less than all your hardware and
software and is certainly not going to buy me that villa in Spain.
But if you protect your rights, if you show your
self-worth, maybe, just maybe, in the right situation, if one of the sites
on which your creativity appears hits, if it becomes something wonderful
and starts to produce big bucks, then maybe, just maybe, it can become
villa in Spain.
Or at least a down payment.
© 1997 Ivan Hoffman
This article is not intended as a substitute for
legal advice. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the
outcome different than would be anticipated by you. You should consult
with an attorney familiar with the issues and the laws.
No portion of this article may be copied, retransmitted,
reposted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval
of the author.
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