The Fine Print

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What's the lesson? "When you're contracting to create a logo, software, etc., make sure you find out what you're paying for," DuBoff says. "In exchange for your money, what do you get? Can you replicate the design on your stationery?" He notes that each creative field has its own conventions. Photographers, for instance, usually retain their negatives. Graphic designers typically charge an override fee when they provide or arrange printing. Writers generally offer "first rights" to an article or text, reserving the right to sell reprint rights later. A contract, though, supersedes these conventions. Decide what rights you want, and find out what it will cost to get them. Some tips:

  • The artist may have a standard contract with terms acceptable to you. Otherwise, agree on the major points and have an attorney draft a contract.
  • Anticipate the uses you might have for the creative material. For instance, are you likely to want to use photos repeatedly without obtaining permission from the photographer each time? Negotiate for unlimited rights. Rights for one-time use, however, may be all you need, and they cost less. Usually a photographer who is doing a photo shoot specifically for your company will agree to grant you unlimited rights but may ask for more money.
  • Specify in the contract where disputes will be handled--especially if the person lives in another state or country.
  • If you get into a dispute, who will pay the lawyers' fees? Agreeing that the loser pays the attorneys' fees for both sides can discourage frivolous lawsuits.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Fine Print.

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