Tag: Arizona business attorney

  • No Copyright for AI-Generated Work

    Artificial intelligence by Wendelin Jacober

    During an evening event at Content Marketing World this year, I was talking with my fellow speakers, and I basically held court to field their questions about how copyright applies to content that’s created with artificial intelligence (AI). This led to an invitation from the brilliant Christopher Penn to do a more in-depth interview about this topic as a Fire Side Chat for Trust Insights.

    Only Humans Can Create Copyrightable Works

    This issue was largely settled by the infamous Monkey Selfie case. Here’s what happened:

    Photographer David Slater was taking pictures in Tangkoko reserve in Indonesia. At one point, Naruto, a macaque monkey, picked up Slater’s camera and took several pictures, including the infamous selfie.

    Slater wanted to register the copyright in the photo, but People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued Slater on behalf of Naruto, arguing that Naruto should own the copyright since he took the photo.

    The judge ruled that only humans can create copyright-protected works. Since Naruto took the photo, not the photographer, the photographer doesn’t own the copyright.

    In fact, no one owns the copyright in this photo. Since it was taken without a human author, there is no copyright in this selfie. Anyone can use it for any purpose without needing permission.

    Owning an AI Machine Does Not Give You a Copyright in the Machine’s Output

    This came up in a different copyright matter. Steven Thaler owned a machine that created the work entitled, “Entrance to Paradise.” When he tried to register the copyright for this work, he listed the machine, Creativity Machine, as the author, and himself as an author merely as the machine’s owner. The Copyright Office rejected the application, saying that owning the machine isn’t enough to make you an author of the machine’s output.

    If you write software code for an AI machine or product, there’s copyright protection for the code assuming it qualifies as an original work of authorship. However, even when software code is protected by copyright, the results of running the code are not necessarily protected by copyright. Remember there is no copyright protection for facts.

    Artificial Intelligence by Wendelin Jacober

    AI-Generated Content Might be a Derivative Work

    Whoever owns a copyright, get to control how that work is copied and distributed as well as what derivative works can be made from it.

    If you put someone else’s copyright-protected work into an AI machine or software, the resulting AI-generated content would be a derivative work of the original. If you do this without a license, then that’s likely copyright infringement.

    This is similar to using Google Translate to create unauthorized translations of someone else’s work.

    Could the Creator of AI Software be a Copyright Owner of the AI-Generated Work?

    I would not be surprised if this question is revisited by the court in the future.

    This question was touched on briefly in the Torah Soft case. An author wanted to use printouts from the Torah Soft software in their book and the software’s creator said this was an unauthorized use of his copyright in the software code.

    The judge ultimately held that that the code was not an original work of authorship, therefore, not copyrightable, and there was no copyright in the printouts because both the code and the printouts merely contained an unoriginal arrangement of facts. (This is also why there’s no copyright protection for phonebooks.)

    Might the outcome have been different if the input was not protected by copyright but the software code that created the output is? Maybe. This is an issue that hasn’t been taken up by the courts yet. The owner of the copyright in the code would have to prove that the output from the code is a derivative work.

    There’s also the question of whether the method used to create the output is original enough to be worthy of a patent. The court may have to consider whether this is a situation involving patent rights or copyright rights, or both.

    This is a gray area of the law. I don’t have high expectations that the owner of the code will successfully assert rights in the output of their code, but I think these types of questions will come up moving forward.

    What If Your Content is 100% AI-Generated?

    For now, AI-generated content isn’t worth consuming. To be blunt. It’s usually crap. Remember when AI studied pick up lines and was tasked with writing its own?

    However, if you’re using AI-generated content, or perhaps just AI-generated images, this comes with a risk. Assuming the AI-generated content is not a derivative work of someone else’s copyright protected work, it’s content that is not created by a human; therefore, cannot be protected by copyright and will automatically be in the public domain. Anyone, including your competition, could use it without penalty, at least from a copyright perspective.

    Otherwise, it’s imperative to keep a human substantially involved in creating your original works to retain its copyright and associated rights. For now, the best use of AI-generated content seems to be as a tool for exploring ideas for content and creating inconsequential images where you don’t care if anyone uses them.

    Will Certified Artisan Content Become a Real Thing?

    Chris and I joked that in the future, content made my humans will be labeled as “certified organic content” or “handcrafted artisanal content.”

    While we said this in jest, if the quality of AI-generated content improves, this could be how some content creators differentiate themselves from marketers who solely use AI without engaging a human to create original copyright-protected work(s) as part of the creation process.

    Want More?

    If you liked this post and want more, please subscribe to Ruth & Consequences. This fortnightly newsletter gives you exclusive content and a behind-the-scenes look into my life as a non-binary lawyer and entrepreneur and the lessons I learn as the Evil Genius behind Geek Law Firm. (When you own the business, you get to pick your own title.)

  • Cost to Move a Business from California to Arizona

    Arizona Welcomes You” by AlmightyWorm, public domain

    Frequently, I receive emails from people who need help moving their business from California to Arizona. They typically find me after reading my post about how challenging it is to move a company from California to Arizona, particularly a corporation. One of the most common questions they have is, “What will this cost?”

    Cost to Move a Corporation from CA to AZ

    Moving a corporation from California to Arizona is complicated because it requires forming a new business entity in Arizona and then merging with the California entity where the Arizona entity is the surviving business. This requires extra steps and extra fees. Here is the process if the surviving entity is an Arizona corporation, with all filing expedited.

    • File the Articles of Incorporation with the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC): $95
    • File the ACC Statement of Merger: $135
    • Once the Statement of Merger is approved, request and obtain a certified copy of Statement of Merger: $42
    • Send the notice of the merger to the California Secretary of State: $100

    Total filing fees: $372

    In addition to these filing fees, you are required to publish notice of your Articles of Incorporation and Statement of Merger in a local newspaper if your Arizona business is located outside of Maricopa or Pima County: Each approved newspaper sets its own prices, which I’ve seen range from less than $40 to over $400. In my experience, the fewer approved newspapers in the county, the higher the publication fee.

    All of this does not include attorneys’ fees. I tell my prospective clients to expect this total process to take 3-4 hours of my time. (My current rate is $275/hour, so up to $1,100.)

    Cost to Move an LLC from CA to AZ

    Moving a limited liability company from California to Arizona is much less complicated than moving a corporation. Thankfully, this does not require a merger.

    • File the Statement of Conversion with the ACC: $85
    • Along with the Statement of Conversion, file the Articles of Organization: $85
    • Once these filings are approved, file a Statement of Conversion with the California Secretary of State: $30

    Total filing fees: $200

    The form for each Statement of Conversion is provided by their respective states. Like a corporation, if your Arizona LLC is not located in Maricopa or Pima County, you must publish a notice of your Arizona LLC in an approved newspaper. As stated above, each publication sets its own prices and they can vary greatly, so it’s often worthwhile to call all the approved newspapers in your county, unless you have your heart set on publishing in a particular one.

    Of course, there is also the fee for your attorney’s time. I tell my prospective clients to expect this process to take 2-3 hours of my time (so at my current rate is $275/hour, it would be up to $825.)

    Moving an Entity from California to Arizona Without an Attorney

    You are not required to use an attorney to move your business entity from California to Arizona. You can submit these filings yourself. However, I strongly recommend that you consult with an attorney along the way. I’m working with a client right now who is doing their own merger. Each step of the way, he checks in with me via email, and I helped him write the notice of the merger to the California Secretary of State.

    I have another client who came to me after trying to move their entity themselves and it backfired. He tried to move his California corporation to Arizona using a Statement of Conversion. The ACC approved it, but the California Secretary of State won’t accept a Statement of Conversion as a way to move the entity out of the state. He essentially wasted his money and time filing the Statement of Conversion in Arizona, because I still have to file the Statement of Merger and the subsequent notice to California to achieve his goal of moving the entity out California. It probably cost him more trying to do it himself, because I also called the Secretary of State’s Office to see if I could untangle this mess and merely send a notice of the conversion – which they said is not permitted.

    I frequently say it’s easier and cheaper to avoid problems than to fix them. If you’re preparing to move your business to Arizona, please contact me if you need help – whether you want me to do everything for you or be available to help you do it yourself.

    If you want to regularly receive information about how you can run your business more effectively and keep up to date on other legal issues related to business, intellectual property, and internet law, please add yourself to my email list.

  • Funny but Binding Contract Terms for Late Payments

    Pizza” by stu_spivack (Creative Commons License)

    One of the biggest challenges facing small businesses seems to be getting clients to pay their bills. Dealing with non-paying clients or delinquent clients is one the most common complaints I hear about from other entrepreneurs. Your first line of defense against these people is in your contract.

    Create an Upside When Clients Don’t Pay – in Your Contract

    You can put anything you want in a contract, as long as it’s legal. (This is why you can’t have a legally binding contract to buy/sell heroin or a human kidney.) Most contracts include a provision about a late fee, so if your client is late in paying you, you can make them pay more, up to the maximum interest rate allowed by law.

    If you are a professional creative, such as a website developer, graphic designer, or photographer, you can put in your contract that you won’t give the client the final deliverables until they’ve paid the balance on their account. This is an effective way to hold your clients’ financial feet to the fire.  

    Don’t Publicly Shame Your Clients

    No matter what you put in your contracts, don’t shame your clients for being late in paying their bill. Don’t put in a provision that says if they’re late, you can put up a sign or billboard, or hire a skywriter to tell the world that the client didn’t pay their bill. That doesn’t help anything. That could easily backfire because it makes you look like a jerk.

    I had some ideas that aren’t publicly shaming, but still could make you look worse than your non-paying client if it became public information, like including a provision that says, if you’re more than 90 days late, every time we send you a reminder, the subject line will be, “Hey Asshole! Pay your bill!” As validating as that might be in the moment, it probably wouldn’t be an effective strategy for getting referrals, or even getting them to pay.

    Free Ideas for Revising Your Contracts

    Recently, I wondered what else a company could put in their contract that would encourage clients to pay their bill and have an upside for the company. For the purpose of these suggestions, “you” and “your” refer to the client and “we,” “us,” and “our” refer to the company.

    • If you’re more than 30 days late paying your invoice, you agree that you will pay for an office pizza party for us every Friday, and we will add the amount to your unpaid invoice as well as send you a photo of us eating pizza.
    • If you’re more than 6 months late paying your bill, we will send a hug-a-gram to your office reminding you to pay us. (It’s like a singing telegram, but instead of singing, they hug you.) We will add the amount of their fee to your unpaid invoice along with a substantial tip.
    • For a web designer: If you are 30 days late paying your final invoice, not only will we not launch your new website, you consent that we can commandeer your current site to promote the charity of our choice.

    Final Thoughts

    Having non-traditional contract terms is not a new idea. Lots of people have had seemingly crazy provisions in their contracts. I want to do more blog posts this year with sample verbiage for contracts that I would love to write, that would be legally binding, and not your traditional legalese.  

    I want to humanize contracts. I love writing contracts in everyday language. Your contract should be written in a way that you and your clients can easily understand it. If you want to hear more about what I’m doing in my business and practical legal tips to run yours more effective, please add yourself newsletter.

  • Six Ways to Work on Your Photography Business While in Quarantine

    “Lens Cleaning” by The Preiser Project from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

    I cringe every time I see a post about photographers and models teaming up to shoot during the COVID-19 pandemic when they should be social distancing and staying home. The only photographers who should be out shooting these days are the ones who are documenting the pandemic.

    My business mentor taught me that when you’re not working in your business, you should be working on your business. Here are 6 ways you can work on your business while sheltering in place.

    Edit Your Images From TFP Shoots

    Models frequently complain that they rarely get images from open TFP shoots. They held up their end of the bargain. Now it’s time for you to do yours.

    Brainstorm and Research Future Projects and Collaborations

    Now is a good time to reach out to models you want to work with and research ideas for shoots you want to do when the Shelter In Place orders are lifted. There are lots of online groups where you can network with other photogs and models.

    Create Your LLC

    Are you still a sole proprietor? <shiver> Please fix that. No entrepreneur should be without a business entity for their company.

    In most states, you can create a business entity online. Look up your state’s Secretary of State Office or Corporation Commission.

    Review or Create Your Legal Documents

    Do you have templates for your client contracts, model releases, and copyright license? If not, now you have the time to create them. If you have them, can you remember the last time your reviewed them? If not, now would be a good time to do that. A lot of people are double checking that they have an effective force majeure provision in their agreements.

    If you want to respond to suspected copyright infringement by sending a cease and desist letter, now is the time to create an epic C&D template so you’re ready to lay the smack down on anyone who violates your rights.

    Update Your Website

    I bet it’s been a while since you did that. Make sure it accurately reflects your style and strengths. Even I’ve spent time while sheltering in place, updating this site.

    Clean Your Gear

    Now you have the time to clean your gear, including cleaning out gear you no longer use. Get your gear serviced if your camera shop is still open. Don’t forget to go through your memory cards and get rid of images you’ll never do anything with.

    If you can’t resist the urge to pick up a camera, please limit yourself to shooting still life, self-portraits, and/or shooting at home with members of your household. You can also work on your craft by re-editing older photos and taking online trainings on various techniques and skills.

    Lights Camera LawsuitTM

    There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. It’s 23 lessons, nearly 6 hours of legal information, with tons of information about contracts and copyright. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

    The course is $497, but until June 1, 2020, you can get it for 20% off with promo code thrive20.

  • Share, Don’t Steal Content in Response to COVID-19

    Don’t Steal by Marguerite Elias from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

    During this pandemic, many companies are reaching out to their audience with message of reassurance, information about changes in their services, and ways their audience can help during this challenging time.

    My friend, Jessica Bay, walks dogs professionally as well as educates would-be professional dog walkers. She created a helpful graphic for her audience:

    A short while later, she noticed this in her social media feed:

    And later this one:

    She asked me if these were instances of copyright infringement. If someone is copying word-for-word or close to it, that raises the red flag for copyright infringement. There are definite similarities. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these graphics were inspired by another’s post.

    Let’s assume that one of these graphics is a rip-off of another. It doesn’t make sense to me that someone would do that. In a niche market like dog walking and pet sitting, there’s no downside to sharing another’s graphic since the provider has to be in the physical vicinity of their clients. And for companies that educate would-be dog walkers, you should be confident enough in your work that your clients aren’t going to jump ship because of a graphic on social media.

    Conversely, there are only so many ways to convey the same information, and independent creation is a defense against copyright infringement. It’s possible that each of these three companies independently came up with the idea of creating a graphic about how their audience could support the dog walking/pet care industry while under quarantine or practicing social distancing.  

    My Two Cents

    Speaking as a lawyer and as an entrepreneur, if you see a graphic that would be helpful to your audience, share it. The best way you can add to the conversation would be to create your own content that builds on the original message, not just repeats it. (If you’re going to create content that repeats another’s message or general information, at least find an original way to do it.) If someone wanted to build on this, they could have created a graphic about the importance of maintaining normalcy in your pet’s life, which includes their walking schedule.

    If you get caught copying another’s content that’s so blatant that everyone will know that one is a rip-off of the other, it’s going to have an adverse impact. Instead of coming across has helpful, you risk being seen as lacking integrity and creativity.

    If You Get Caught Stealing Content

    If someone calls you out for potentially stealing content, and that’s what you did, just delete what you created, and don’t do it again. Saying it’s a “good message to spread” is not a valid excuse for copyright infringement.

    Ripping off a company’s graphic is on the same level as claiming another person’s poem as your own because you thought it was pretty. I think some people have a mental disconnect where they don’t think copying commercial speech is as bad as other infringing behavior. (Creating a graphic with your business logo on it, even though it is not a sales pitch, is commercial speech.)

    If someone has a good message to share, and their original content is shareable, then share it. That’s the best way to share the valuable message with your audience.

    Sharing Done Right

    I have seen this graphic all over social media over the last few days:

    Hat tip to The Counseling Teacher for creating such a helpful graphic. This graphic has the right message at the right time. Additionally, I haven’t seen any instances where sharing this graphic had a negative impact on anyone’s business.

  • Force Majeure is a Contract Must-Have

    “Disaster” by jiwasz from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

    Recently, a member of one of the mastermind groups I’m in asked if he should modify the force majeure provision of this contract template in case he encountered a situation where he was unable to perform as promised due to restrictions related to COVID-19. 

    Force Majeure = Worst-Case Scenario Clause

    Force majeure comes from Latin meaning “superior force” and applies to unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract. A force majeure provision will state that One or both sides of a contract are not liable if they’re unable to perform their obligations due to circumstances that are outside of their control.

    A force majeure clause might say something like:

    Consultant shall not be liable for failure or delay in performance of Services if such failure or delay is a result of causes and/or circumstances beyond the Consultant’s reasonable control and without its fault or negligence.

    Including, But Not Limited To . . .

    Many times, this provision includes a list of things that qualify as force majeure situations. This list may include, but is not limited to:

    • Accident
    • Illness
    • Riot
    • Strike
    • Natural disasters
    • Terrorist attacks
    • Failure in transportation
    • Acts by deities (I prefer this over “Acts of God” because it’s more inclusive)
    • Fire
    • Flood
    • War
    • Zombie apocalypse

    Remember: You can put in anything you want in a contract as long as it’s legal.

    It’s important to include the phrase like, “Including, but not limited to,” so you don’t inadvertently limit want counts as a situation when the force majeure clause would apply.

    Written Broadly on Purpose

    This provision is purposely written broadly to cover any situation outside the person’s control that would impact their ability to perform their obligations under the contract. Going back to the question from my mastermind group, he’s a professional speaker and his provision had the “including, but not limited to” list that included “illness” and he asked the group if he should also include “public health emergencies.”

    The word “illness” is broad. It could apply to situations where:

    • You get sick.
    • A family member gets sick.
    • There’s an epidemic in the country where you’re supposed to be going, and officials have closed the border.
    • There’s an epidemic and even though you can get to the location, if you do, you’ll be forced into a quarantine for 14 days afterwards, which will force you to miss your next speaking engagement or otherwise take care of your family.

    Mitigate Damage

    When a person is required to rely on the force majeure provision of their contract because they were unable to deliver as promised, both sides are required to mitigate their damages. For example, a photographer might have to cancel an outdoor photo shoot due to rain. The way to mitigate that damage is to reschedule for another day.

    I’ve seen a professional speaker get into a situation where something interfered with his ability to travel to an event. The speaker and the event mitigated their problem by having him present remotely instead.

    Always Have a Lawyer Create Your Contracts

    Most, if not all, of the contract templates I create for people to use in their business includes a force majeure provision.

    To date, I have never seen a contract template that was downloaded from the internet that was good to use as written. When it comes to the contract templates that impact your life and/or livelihood, it is worth the investment to hire a lawyer to draft or at least review the contract before you use it with a client. You don’t want to find out the hard way that there are gaps in its terms.

  • Lights Camera Lawsuit Pre-sale Starts Tomorrow!

    “Fireworks” by Epic Fireworks from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

    I’m nearly pee-my-pants excited because the pre-sale for my first online course, Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography starts tomorrow! I’ve been working on this for well-over a year, and it’s so close to finally coming to market.

    I’ve spent the last week promoting the bejezus out of this, and I’m so pleased that the response has been so positive:

    Looks like a powerful product… I’m sure it will prove very popular!

    Super good idea, and i love the curriculum.

    Sound like a good (and much-needed) product.

    Just forwarded it to every photographer I know

    I will never stop being amazed at your entrepreneurial talents – what an amazing idea.  

    On the eve of the pre-sale, I wanted to respond to some of the questions I’ve received about this course.

    What inspired you to create this course?

    I’ve worked as a lawyer for eight years and a model for five. Basically, I’ve worked on both sides of the camera without having to touch one. I’ve seen there is a great need for quality information about photography law, and, unfortunately, most photographers can’t afford to hire a lawyer to help with all their legal needs. I’ve seen too many photographers make costly mistakes that were completely avoidable, particularly related to their contracts and copyright. I created this course to save other photographers from making the same mistakes.

    Why did you create a course instead of another type of product or event?

    There are three reasons. First, by creating a course, I can maximize the number of people I can help while keeping the price down.

    Second, the material in the course is evergreen (at least until the law changes), so I want it to be available when people are ready for it and looking for a reliable resource about photography law.

    Third, people who buy the course will be able to access it again and again, versus a live event which is a one-and-done deal. If there are changes to the law, I can update the lesson in question or add an additional lesson to the course, and everyone who had purchased it to date will get it at no additional cost.

    Does the course include contract templates?

    No, and here’s why – I’m not allowed to under the rules of my law license. However, the course includes the list of provisions I include in my contracts and lots of sample verbiage from real documents I’ve created for photographer clients.

    Where did the name Scarlet Maven come from?

    Scarlet Maven is the name of my superhero alter ego.

    Why did you have to create a separate business entity? What type did you create?

    I created a separate entity, Scarlet Maven, LLC, to make it clear that there will not be an attorney-client relationship with people who buy the course.

    On the advice of my accountant, I created an LLC for this business. LLCs are a great choice In Arizona, because they are basically set-it-and-forget-it entities. The state doesn’t require an annual report or fee. I don’t have to file anything with the state unless the company moves or dissolves.

    What aspects of the course did you outsource?

    Each lesson is going to be a screencast with a voiceover recording. I hired Elizabeth Fullerton at Boldfaced Design to create the templates for the PowerPoint slides.

    Additionally, because I have no artistic talent and only had a feeling about what I wanted my logo to look like, I hired Dina Miller at Square Peg Creative to create the logos for Scarlet Maven and Lights Camera Lawsuit.

    Both were money well spent. These ladies did a beautiful job.

    How have you been promoting the course?

    In addition to promoting the course through Scarlet Maven’s email list, I sent well over 500 individual emails to photographers, lawyers, and other professional creatives who might be interested in the course or who might know people who would be interested in the course.

    The promotion won’t end with the pre-sale. I expect Lights Camera Lawsuit will be a course I sell for years to come, so I’ll continue to look for opportunity to reach more people about it.

    What parts of this process were fun?

    Creating the outline for the course and each of the lessons was fun. So has been talking with photographers about their needs and what they hoped to get out of this.

    What new skills did you have to learn?

    This venture gave me the opportunity to learn some new skills. This was the first time I ever created a website with Squarespace. It’s quite different than working with WordPress, but not too hard once you learn the basics.

    This is my first online course, and I’m using Teachery for it. I was so glad and relieved to learn that this platform is super easy to use. I’ve also taken a number of courses that platform, so I know how easy it is for users as well.

    What challenges did you face?

    Scarlet Maven is my side business, so one of the challenges I faced was making time to devote to the business, create the course, and promote it. I still have my full-time job being a lawyer, writer, and speaker where I don’t always control when I have deadlines or when work gets dropped in my lap.

    The biggest challenge I faced, by far, with this venture has been managing my anxiety.

    • What if no one likes it?
    • What if no one buys it?
    • What if I screw up making it and it never gets to market?

    These are the types of fears I wrestled with on a daily basis. Sometimes they caused me to procrastinate working on the course. The best way I knew to manage them was to focus on the next task in front of me instead of being consumed by the bigger fears related to the course’s overall success.

    Lights Camera Lawsuit Pre-sale: February 14th-18th

    The pre-sale for Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography will last only five days!

    Pre-sale Starts: Friday, February 14, 2020 at 8am AZ Time

    Pre-sale Ends: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 6pm AZ Time

    Pre-sale Price: $199 (60% discount)

    Please subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on this fantastic pre-sale price. I’ll never offer this course at this price again.

    When the course goes live on March 16, 2020, the price will be $497. This is still a bargain for 10+ hours of legal information, but why pay more?

  • Having a Photography Business is Two Jobs in One

    Ghost Dance by darkday from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

    Being an entrepreneur is two full-time jobs in one: performing your craft and running a business.

    So Many Hats, So Little Time

    As a photographer, you have so much to do – photo shoots, edit images, maintain your web presence, promote your business, and garner new clients. Plus, you have to answer emails and phone calls, take care of your billing and accounting, buy office supplies, and take care of the things that normally come with a 9-to-5 job like saving for retirement, health insurance, saving for retirement, planning for time off . . .

    Geez. Maybe it’s more like six jobs in one.  

    Non-entrepreneurs don’t know how much work it is to keep all the cogs in the machine turning.

    Best Advice I Received as an Entrepreneur

    One of the best pieces of advice I heard when I was just starting out as an entrepreneur was:

    When you’re not working in your business, you need to be working on your business.

    When you don’t have client work to do, you need to be working on getting the next client in the door, and/or keeping up with the business side of your company.

    How You Set Up Your Business Determines Its Success

    How you set up your business, not just creating a business entity, will streamline future decisions. You want to know, and communicate, in advance:

    • Your policy regarding cancellations,
    • Pricing, including rush fees,
    • The turnaround time for deliverables, and
    • Your terms of licensing your work.

    Remember – It’s your business. You make the rules.

    You also want to make some in-house rules for yourself, like deciding how you to respond to suspected copyright infringement, how you’ll interact with your clients, and when to invest in more training or new equipment.

    Having policies and systems in place will make you a more efficient and effective business owner, which will clear up time and energy to devote to your craft.

    Work on the Business Every Week

    Each week, you should set aside some time to work on your business. Treat your business like a client and put it on your calendar. I have a standing weekly meeting with myself where I put pen to paper to celebrate victories from the past week, examine what’s working and what’s not in the business, what to try next, and to consider upcoming opportunities. This is also the time I pay bills and reconcile bank statements. I run a profit-and-loss report every month to analyze how money is coming in and going out from the company.

    Recently, I learned of a photographer who almost never scheduled shoots on Monday. Instead, they used that time to buy film, return calls, accounts receivable and payable, plan ahead, and send invoices. They give themselves an entire day to step back from the camera and Lightroom to take care of the needs of their business.

    What about you? What do you do to take care of the business side of your photography company?

    Lights Camera Lawsuit

    There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

    The course goes live on March 16, 2020 and is $497. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of work and you’ll be getting over ten hours of legal information.  

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  • How to Respond When a Client Violates Your Photography Contract

    ” Angry Face Krah” by bixentro from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

    Even when you do everything right as a photographer – signed contract, quality work, deliver the final images on-time, etc., you’ll still have to deal with clients who don’t comply with the contract terms such as being late with payment or alter the images (e.g. cropping them or applying filters) before posting them online.

    In these challenging situations, you have options.

    What Does Your Contract Say?

    The terms of your contract matter most when things go sideways. You want to make sure you have an air-tight contract that is clear about the client’s dos and don’ts, as well as how you’ll resolve disputes.

    When I write a dispute resolution clause for my clients, I frequently write one like:

    Parties will attempt to resolve the matter among themselves for 30 days. If the dispute is not resolved in that time, then all disputes will be resolved in a court located in [Your County, Your State]. The Parties consent to the personal and subject matter jurisdiction of this court. This Agreement is governed by [Your State] law. The Parties agree that the non-prevailing Party shall be responsible for the prevailing Party’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

    Actually, many times, I recommend that my clients have their dispute resolution clause to be based on where I live and Arizona law, because in the event of a dispute, my client will have to pay me throughout the dispute and hope for reimbursement from the other side at the end. It’s cheaper to resolve the dispute on your lawyer’s turf than to have to cover their travel expenses.

    Dial Direct

    When a client comes to me because their client violated a contract, I often advise them that they should contact their client directly first. Many people feel attacked and go on the defensive when a letter from the lawyer arrives, and they’ll ask, “Why didn’t you just contact me directly?”

    When you contact your client, be sure to give them an out, a way to save face, particularly if the client hired you for personal or family photos. They don’t likely understand things like copyright. It could be a casual message like:

    “Hey there. I noticed you did XYZ. I’m glad you’re loving the photos so much. I think you may have forgotten that our contract says ABC. Please remove the images by Date.”

    When you send the email, include a copy of the contract, possibly with the pertinent provision highlighted.

    If that a doesn’t work, the next email should be more forceful. (This may also be your opening response, depending on the client.) You want to clearly state that the person is in violation of the contract, and they must remove images by a specific date. Many times, I recommend including the sentence, “I hope we can resolve this matter without having to resort to lawyers.”

    If that doesn’t work, that’s when it’s time to have your lawyer to send a nastygram (cease and desist letter) on your behalf.

    Truth be told, frequently I’m the one who writes these emails for my clients to send. This way, the emails are legally accurate, which makes it easier if I have to get involved.

    Other Ways to Go After Illegal Image Use Online

    If a client posted images online that they weren’t supposed to, and you’ve posted them online somewhere, you can bypass your client completely and send a DMCA Takedown Notice to the website where the images were posted. This tactic only works for U.S.-based companies and companies that comply with these notices, since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is part of the U.S. Copyright Act.

    To comply with the DMCA, the website has to remove access to the images. Note: It is easy for the client to send a DMCA Counter Takedown Notice to get the images restored. If you are concerned your client may do that, you may want to send them a note that doing so would constitute perjury.

    Images that Should Have Been Licensed

    Sometimes websites and/or paper publications ask the person in the image if they can use the photo without verifying who is the copyright owner. If this person is your client, they may be so flattered and excited by the offer, that they forget they don’t have authority to grant permission for the use.

    If this happens, and your photo is used without your permission, particularly if it’s a situation where you would have charged a licensing fee, the proper response is to contact the publisher and inform them of their mistake. You can even send them a bill with a letter that essentially says, ““By using my photo, you’ve agreed to our licensing terms” and include a copy of your standard license.

    “Beggar’s Sign” by Eli Christman from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

    Non-Paying Clients

    There are few things more frustrating for any entrepreneur than having to chase a client for payment. I’m a strong advocate that photographers should not provide proofs to a client until all outstanding balances have been paid.

    Likewise, if the expectation is that the client must pay you before or at the time of the event or photog shoot, and they don’t pay, don’t be afraid to leave. Why do any work for them if they haven’t paid you to do so? If you choose to stay, I hope your contract includes a provision that lets you charge a hefty late fee.

    No matter what or how you charge for your work, always send a reminder about when payments are due, including a notice about your penalties for late payment.

    Contract are relationships management documents. They should address the interactions with your clients, including when things go sideways.

    Lights Camera Lawsuit

    There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

    At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

    Please subscribe for more information and to make sure you don’t miss out on any special offers or discounts.

  • Manage Photography Client Expectations with Effective Contracts

    Photographer by Elicus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

    One of the problems I’ve heard about from a number of photographers is clients not understanding what the photographer will and will not do for them. A way to manage client expectations is to clearly document them in your contract.

    Clearly State What the Client is Getting and When

    When your prospective client reads your contract, it should be as crystal clear as possible what they are hiring you to do. This includes providing expectations when deliverables will be ready. Your contract may say things like:

    • You will show up on time and prepared to shoot the client’s wedding if they’ve paid your fee for the event in advance, or alternatively, the wedding party will not receive proofs from the event until they’ve paid in full, including any extra fees incurred because they asked you to stay late.
    • Proofs will be ready 3-4 weeks following the event.
    • The model is being compensated for their time and talent with money.

    When I review a contract, sometimes I take my notebook and divide it into two columns – one for each party to the contract – and make a list about what each side is giving and getting in return. Your client should be able to do the same, which means the contract needs to be written with verbiage that they (and you) can understand.

    Be Clear About What the Client is Not Getting

    Along with being clear about what the client is hiring you to do, you may want to include terms that clarify what they client isn’t getting in this transaction. This may include things like:

    • You will show the client the best images from the event. The client will not be allowed to see every image shot at the event.
    • You make no guarantee that you’ll be able to capture every image the client hoped you’d get.
    • Unless the client paid for extra editing, you will not photoshop the client to make them look like a completely different person.
    • If the client only paid for images for personal use, they can’t use them to market their business.
    • The client is not getting a license to modify the images. This includes running the images through a filter before putting them on Instagram.

    Additionally, I hope your contract has a provision entitled “Entire Agreement” that states that the terms therein constitute the entire understanding between the parties, and the contract supersedes all previous verbal and written exchanges. That way, anything that isn’t written in the contract is, be definition, not part of the agreement.

    Contract = Relationship Management Document

    The best way I can describe a contract is that it is a relationship management document. It clearly states each side’s responsibilities, helps manage expectations, and mitigates problems.

    Your photography contract is the master document that applies to your relationships with your clients. When a client hires you for your talents and services, they must agree to abide by your rules. Whatever your concerns are about client behavior, make sure to address them in your contract.

    An effective contract can save you from stress, headaches, and legal bills. It won’t eliminate problematic clients from your life, but it will help you manage them more effectively when you can respond to their complaint with a copy of the signed contract and saying, “As you can plainly see in the agreement you signed on [date], you acknowledged/agreed that . . . “

    You may also want to have a section of your website where you share with prospective clients, “My Commitment To You” where you can lay out your promises to clients. You can even include a section that starts with, “While I promise to do my best for you, I’m not a miracle worker.” From there you can go into some of the things that you can’t or won’t do for clients.

    Lights Camera Lawsuit

    There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

    At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

    Please subscribe for more information and to make sure you don’t miss out on any special offers or discounts.