How to Negotiate Rights

Negotiating rights is usually a very simple process.  Most often a simple contract form is used, which states that the photographer will deliver low resolution images for the client’s consideration by a certain date. The client will select at least a minimum number of prints and will pay a certain pre-arranged price for those images. The photographer retains the original images. If the client wants more prints in the future, he or she goes back to the photographer.  In today’s world, the digital image is king. So if your client wants the digital image with unlimited rights, extra terms may be required.  If you release your digital image, you lose control of it. So you may decide to release all rights to an image and charge a higher fee.

Negotiating is not always that simple. Often negotiators speak in the abstract. The most important point in negotiating is to understand exactly what you are selling. You cannot even begin to talk price until the rights to be sold are established.

When a buyer wants to use a digital image or print for a promotional brochure, he may say he wants all rights. That may be true but often he means exclusive rights for a certain period of time. In any case, it is proper to ask for a proposal in writing to establish the specific rights in question and to outline the plans for using the image if an agreement can be reached.

When the intended use is known, a price can be set or negotiated based on what the buyer can and cannot do with the photo. If the buyer really purchases all rights (which includes copyright), he can do anything he wishes with the photograph from the point of sale forward. The photographer no longer has any control over the photograph and will never be able to use it again.

Other rights, such as one-time rights, should be clearly specified in writing.  When the term of such agreement expires, the buyer must re-negotiate rights if he wishes to use the work again. The photographer retains control for the use of his images at all times unless he sells all rights.