Dangers in the copyright jungle

?Protect your ideas: The antidote to rip-offs

Wherever possible, submit ideas and suggestions for projects in writing, so there is a record that they are yours, and send them to a named person, so there is an identifiable chain of accountability.

If you do have oral discussions, on the phone or in the pub, try to make it clear that you are putting up ideas with the notion that you will be the one to benefit from their commercial exploitation – and send a letter or email immediately afterwards recording what you said.

Warranties and indemnities: A glimpse into the abyss

You will be happy enough to promise, or warrant, that you will do your best to avoid copyright infringement, libel, blasphemy and the like. You will be much less happy to actually guarantee that no such perils lurk in your work.

And you will be very wary indeed of the idea that you should indemnify the client organisation against any repercussions as this means you become responsible for paying all their fines and costs if someone sues.

Infringements: The fightback starts here

You realise that an organisation has used your work in ways that the original agreement did not envisage, putting it up on the web, for instance, or has just ripped it off without any contact whatsoever. Do take advice from the union about the best way of dealing with the situation and what level of fees and other payments you might be able to exact.

Upgrades: Any time is raise time

If you work for regular clients over lengthy periods, your fees may appear to stagnate as they never put them up. You have to raise the question of raises. Anything can act as an excuse.

Scams: Just say no

Some clients trade on your enthusiasm and goodwill. They ask for ideas and consultations without guaranteeing a commission. Or they keep adding to the remit, after you’ve started work, without suggesting extra payments. Fight back by trying to make such requirements the subject of additional mini-contracts.

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