We often write, lecture, advise and scream about the importance of retaining your rights set forth in the Constitution of The United States, to enforce your copyrights. Our efforts span decades and have been made necessary by Agents and especially, stock agencies who have attempted to obtain those rights from you. They do so because the ability to prosecute your legal claims on their terms, serves as a profit center for them. You ought not give these rights up under any circumstances. To do so is to commit financial suicide.
Since many of you believe that if you don’t give up these important legal rights you won’t be able to “work for” a stock agency or agent, you give them away on the proverbial silver platter. Note: stock agencies or agents work for you, not vice versa. It is our view that you ought not consider using any stock agency requesting your grant or give it your legal rights to settle or litigate your infringement claims (at their discretion) using their attorneys whether paid for directly or indirectly by you. We’ve put forth many reasons in the past, here are some more ripped from real life.
Sometimes Ed represents a person or company which is guilty of infringing on the copyright of a photographer, artist or illustrator and has been notified by a stock agency of the infringement. The client can be another creative or a “regular” company. Often such client readily acknowledges (to Ed) that the creative and/or one of its employees screwed up and is willing to “pay the piper”. Many, indeed nearly all stock agencies, send out blanket demand letters issued by non-attorneys who have little if any understanding of either copyright law or how attorneys can effectively limit the damages that their “guilty” clients might have to pay. Those simplistic demand letters request fees for infringements or licensing fees without the slightest investigation of the nature and extent of the infringements nor whether the photographers whose work they represent have ever registered their images. Knowledgeable defense attorneys know how to make things difficult for stock agencies so as not to make it worth their while. Were these amateurish demand letters sent out by lawyers, such attorneys would soon be out of business.
The bottom line result is that competent defense lawyers offer a fraction, if anything at all, to such stock agency claims to make them go away. 95% of the time the stock agency accepts a fraction of what the claim is worth because of one or more of the following reasons:
A. The agency will get a check right away and it (the agency) is happy with its cut regardless of what the photographer is to receive or could conceivably receive;
B. The agency does not want to pay its own lawyers a fee electing to use inexperienced non-lawyers or high school dropouts to pursue the legal rights of its “suppliers”;
C. The agency doesn’t see the financial benefit of pursuing the claim because the images were not registered even if you see a financial or moral benefit;
D. The agency has no concern as to whether the photographer is permitting a pattern of infringement to continue unchallenged;
E. The agency does not want to antagonize an on going or even potential client, the client being more important than the contributing photographer;
F. The agency has no stomach for the time and expense of litigation;
G. The agency is willing to cut a package deal for infringements of more than one photographer’s work;
H. or any other of a dozen or so reasons.
Often the result is that a competent defense counsel gets rid of a potentially solid case for a pittance. Photographers who preserve their legal rights and retain their own attorneys to represent only their interests without regard to their agency, do far, far better. In other words, receive more money.
Note that each reason above intentionally starts with the words, “the agency”. Why? Because when you give up your legal rights to any agency, “The Agency” comes first.