The two of us love great quotes, like almost every quoted line in Young Frankenstein (what’s not to love). Here’s one by the great writer Henry James (1843 – 1916) that is not as famous as Igor’s “What hump?”, but probably more meaningful for this column –

“She had an unequalled gift, usually pen in hand, of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities.”

To update to today’s times, we think simply changing “pen” into “keyboard” makes it very new and very compelling today.

What we keep seeing by photographers who keep making big mistakes from small opportunities, especially when they discuss infringement issues on social media. Let us pass on four little words of advice, free of charge – DO NOT DO THAT!!

Did we say that loud enough? Simply put, do not discuss legal issues on social media.

Someone just alerted Jack on a social media site that made Jack smack his face with a book. A photographer was asking his peeps on unnamed social media that requires you to use your real name, about his infringement issue. He lamented how much his lawyer was costing and he didn’t have a lot of money. Well….if Jack was a lawyer (and he’s not) he quickly thought if he was the infringer’s lawyer he’d be filing a whole bunch of motions in court, to chew up his opposing lawyer’s hours. It’s a tactic used by people with deep pockets, they force you out of a lawsuit by out spending you.

Also the advice given by fellow photographers and artists is not only worthless, it’s actually harmful. First someone always says, “Send an invoice” for either a high amount or triple your regular fee. That’s like the worse thing you can ever do. First, if it’s the one time out of ten thousand that someone actually pays that invoice (and we’re being generous with those odds) the odds are good that they know the amount you’re asking for is so low, they are laughing as they write out the check, as it gets them off the hook. More likely, they ignore your invoice. So you sue and in discovery find out that it’s a much much bigger infringement value than you thought when you sent your invoice. Say the invoice you sent said $2,000 (‘cause you were feeling cocky that day) and your experienced lawyer says in his previous experience, an infringement like yours is worth $30,000 or even $50,000. Well Bunky, you’re in trouble, because the other side will show in court the invoice you sent for $2,000 and the judge will ask if you said it was worth $2,000 why are you in his/her court suing for $30,000 or more? They don’t like that. You established the infringement value. So never, ever send an invoice to an infringer.

And don’t assume the other side will not find your online discussion, even if you remove it. Lawyer can easily find things online, even after you’ve removed it. Nothing disappears online. Jack once wanted to show a friend an article online about a famous photographer. He saw that the article was removed because the photographer’s estate objected to the use of the photos in the article. It took Jack 5 minutes to find and read that article. Once on the Internet, it never dies.

If you need legal advise or medical advice, or even plumbing advice, the only thing to ask for online is recommendations for professionals to help you. Don’t ask photographers how to sweat a water pipe, or what to do about a rash on your arm, and especially what to do in a legal problem.

Photographers bitch and moan when someone hires “Uncle Joe with a camera” to take photos instead of them, because they’re a professional. But some photographers would rather chew their arms off before they hire a professional, a lawyer, to handle a legal issue.

Listen to James Joyce and don’t squeeze big mistakes into any opportunity.