by Cynthia Kirkeby
Bad contracts are rampant in pretty much every industry and I’ve seen some atrocious ones in the startup community. So, if you have thought that it is not that important to read and understand contracts, think again. I recently received a brochure on copyrights for photographers that had a link to The American Society of Media Photographers. Their site had a fascinating example of a bad contract, why it was bad, and suggestions on how to make it better.
The Bad Contract Tutorial
The article is called the Bad Contract Tutorial, and I think it is a must read for anyone in business, including startups that are just getting their feet wet with contracts. Whether you are a photographer, a media buyer (which is almost everyone in business these days), or whether you would just like to learn more about contracts to protect yourself and your business, you should be paying closer attention to the contracts you sign.
As you go through the Bad Contract Tutorial, you can mouseover the highlighted clauses to see what their suggestions are for changes. Although in many cases their only suggestion is to delete the clause; and many times that is the only thing you can do with a bad clause. There is not always a way to correct the wording into something less onerous.
The amazing thing about the example used in the Bad Contract Tutorial, is that it is a contract that is currently in use within the publishing community! It makes me a little nauseous to think about the photographers who have signed that contract, without reading it, or without understanding it. Do not make the same mistake! Read your contracts and make them bleed with red ink, if needed, to make them into something that is fair for both sides.
Contractual negotiations are normal. Don’t think that just because you are the little guy that you can’t negotiate. You can and should. Remember that the best negotiations and the best contracts are the ones that are a win-win for both sides.