Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Blog to Print - rights and such

Hi, everyone,

I have recently been contacted a number of times to provide photos or content to print media - some small, some larger. I write and get published scientific journals all the time, and naively, I thought it would be a similar situation when I agreed to provide articles. Now, I am starting to realize that I could find myself in a tangle of trouble very quickly. Here are some of my concerns, questions, and frustrations:

1. Permission to publish: I always get permission to publish my photos and articles about restaurants for MY BLOG. Most people are totally fine with that. However, I have no idea what they would think if my articles were to appear in print media. If someone wants to use my content (essential for free, often), is it my responsibility or the publisher's responsibility to check with the restaurants? In a recent scenario, an editor asked me to call five different places in Japan for permission to reprint my stuff in their book - except I had no idea what they really chose to print or not! I had never seen the page proofs or anything, which is a whole 'nother story...

2. Page proofs: I ALWAYS get page proofs of all articles I write before publication for my scientific writing. I check them for layout, typos, etc, etc. I was never offered the chance to even see the edits or the page proofs in my last endeavor to provide content for print media. Is this normal? Isn't it scary to think what words may have been twisted/changed to not reflect what I wanted to say?

3. Copyright: Who has the copyright to the material now? Is it now the publisher's words on my blog or my words in their book? I totally think I should have been more careful in the beginning, but for the future, I think I will clarify that all copyright stays with me. And if they don't like that, tough. And another question is whether two independent publishers can use the same article. In theory, if they copyright stays with me, they are borrowing my content (almost as a quote), so I should be able to provide it to two places, right? Or am I missing something here?

4. Photos: What compensation should I ask for per photo usage? Again, I have been solicited a number of times for various pictures. The first time, I was in awe that Fodor's would want to use my photos, so I said yes without hesitation and compensation. And then I was told that I was just ripped off by a number of friends and that I should have asked for some sort of compensation. I was just glad to get credit, but now I am wondering whether I should have some sort of policy.

The truth is, I blog for fun. And I am glad that someone can learn something about Japan, or Asian cuisine in general from my blog. I am not planning on ditching my day job for food writing, so if this turns into a bunch of head aches, my plan is to just say no to all offer to print. But as I said, my blog exists to share a little bit of my culture with everyone out there, so if I can figure out a painless way to have a strict policy, I would like to contribute to print media as my time allows.

Please help me come up with that policy!

This Post was written by Alice from My Epicurean Debauchery.


JD said...

I think that some of these questions could be best answered by the publisher you are dealing with - the issue of who holds copyright and whether you can keep things on you blog for example. Publishers usually have a boilerplate contract for all of these things and you can use that as a starting point for what you want to get out of it. Once you know what their expectations are, you can negotiate whatever conditions you want.

As for photographs, food is probably a bit different then photos of people, but generally when publishing photos of humans a photo release is used to document that you have permission. If you are planning to use the photos widely, the release should be pretty generic about the uses you have permission for. Food is probably less of a problem as it is unlikely that a bowl of agedashidofu can afford a lawyer and I'd expect that most chef's would be happy with the nice pictures you take being more widely disseminated. It would also be a stretch for them to claim copyright on the item which is being photographed (some designers have argued that photos of buildings they design violate their copyright - I'm not sure how that worked out for them).

I guess the main thing is to make sure these items are clear with whoever is publishing your work, and if the terms are not to your liking, then ask to change them.

Owen said...

Hey Alice - long list...

1. permission to publish - probably less of a deal than you think - you are entitled to publish anyway, even without permission in most of the scenarios I can imagine

2. page proofs - you won't see 'em - ever - and frankly you shouldn't expect to - typically only ever done for scientific journals and principal authors of books.

3. to be honest, here you got yourself in trouble a bit - if they aren't paying you then you should NEVER have given up the copyright but by agreeing you may have done. On the other hand if they are paying you, they probably get the copyright automatically. I would probably ask for all electronic rights to remain with you and probably only grant them non-exclusive 'first serial rights' which means they get to use the material once basically.

4. photos - yes - photography is pretty heavily protected - you should set a fee for a single time use and stick to it probably. but beware - it is awfully hard to track down people ripping the work off

Frommers - dang - they should be paying you! Going rates by the way for pro magazine writers start at 10 cents a word for low end publications (maybe less for online only) and if you get regular work should rapidly rise to a minimum of $1 per word.

feel free to bug me for more info - I was a technology journalist and subsequently magazine editor at places like PC World, InfoWorld, BYTE, etc etc for fifteen years

Santos said...

i've sold several photos to magazines, media groups, and art publishers and all of them have immediately and without question offered a draft of their standard contract with their standard rate. it basically states what the copyright would cover for them and for you, what you'd be liable for in terms of infringement, what rights you grant them, and what compensation you'd get. i've dealt with some notorious cheap companies, but even they've paid me something.

i don't have a pay scale for my photos because i don't do it professionally; basically my policy is that i want credit, and whatever monetary compensation is warranted under their standard agreement. if i'm dealing with a super-small company everything is flexible, but i still sign an agreement of some sort. frommer's is a huge enterprise--they should have offered you something when they first approached you.

Alice said...

JD, Owen, and Santos,

Thank you guys for all the input! I think I will be smarter about things next time for sure!

Tea said...

You can negotioate different scenarios when it comes to rights, but yes, retaining copyright is always good. You can grant one time, non-exclusive rights (first serial) for different territories (i.e. North American, UK, world, etc). Electronic rights can be retained or sold seperately. Some of the contracts are blatant rights grabs these days (request for rights in "all technologies now known or yet to be invented"), but many of these can be negotioated. Some cannot (NYT is awful in this respect). You could allow two independent publishers to use your material, as long as the first one was a non-exclusive deal, and the second one knew they were getting a reprint. And you should definitely be charging for photos--especially to Frommer's. They would be paying anyone else. Also, and this is a big beef amongst freelance writers/photographers, it undercuts the market for people who are trying to make a living when newbies or hobbiests do the work for free (many rants on this topic on freelancer message boards).

If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me directly. I worked in the copyright department at a publishing company long ago and am happy to help with advice, if desired.