It creeps slowly under your door when you are not paying attention. It looks friendly, but it’s not. It uses smiles and persuasion to convince you of things you do not need. It builds wall around everyone and breaks any form of human communication. It’s the ultimate relationship killer. May I introduce to you, the lawyer.

Like any business, the photo industry is being plagued by an overabundance of  over fed lawyers who want to intervene in every step of your relationships, whether with clients, colleagues, photographers, or anyone you might talk to, now or in perpetuity.

The photography world has been quite ripe for their intrusion. Traditionally a people-handshake business with hardly any paperwork , it is the perfect battleground for those who preach the ultimate rule of the LAW . Not only they have  destroyed the handshake, which had worked quite well for decades, they also succeeded in redesigning the world into a landscape of suspicion, fear, liabilities and potential horror stories.

They thrive on fear and that’s how they sell their service. They institute doubt into any relationship in order to take control of them. And then, they install a fee. Like a communication toll, they start generating their income every time you use their service to communicate with the other party. Note : no longer a person, but a party. Objectification is their key tool to turn confidence into hatred.

All this would be quite reasonable if what they said, or did, was useful . But it’s not. From the Corbis lawyer who compared Chris Usher’s images to nails to the NY Times counsel who declares that because a print was send once for usage , it thus belongs to them forever (see link at end), it’s the rule of “anything goes”, the absurd. Because they were bred and fed by law, they start to beleive that everything that comes out of their mouth is automatically law. They confuse their roles as that of a judge.

Many fall into their traps and let them take over their business decisions. Because they beleive in their paranoia. It’s like giving the wheel of your car to a juggler who doesn’t have a license. They are expert in their field, surely, but have no idea where to bring you.

A lot of very fruitful cooperation have been destroyed by their insistence on protection every disaster scenario. They are the kings/queens of the the zero-risk management.

Sorry to say, but photogrpahy is all about taking risks: from the news photographer going to shoot a war, to the photo editor hiring a new photogrpaher for the first time, we all take risks daily. Photographers take risk every time they shoot before being paid. It’s just the nature of our business. 99.9% of the time, all goes perfectly well. Because we are all professionals and we know what we do. Lawyers, however, want you to think that things will go wrong 99.9% of the time. With that kind of risk, I would get out of bed in the morning and that, in itself, could be risky.

This industry is getting overrode, and tired, of lawyers everywhere . It is not necessary. If you do not want to take some calculated risk, get out of this business right now instead of imposing a greedy lawyers to other people. If you are afraid, stay home, don’t send incompetent to talk on your behalf and waste everyone’s time and money.

A signature at a bottom of a piece of paper has never saved anyone. Declare war against the systematic invasion of lawyers in very part of our profession. break away from these useless expensive chains that will never help your business grow. Invest in marketing, invite photo editors for lunch or drinks instead. Create a relationship of trust. It will go so much further than surrounding yourself behind a wall of legal paperwork.

PS:  Please read this incredible exchange of letters between George Zimbel and a Counsel at the New York Times

Author: pmelcher

1 Comment

  1. The message is quite clear, yet people fail to understand it – the printed press is not concerned with trivialities like payment. Next time you see an issue that is interesting just take it. Their payment should be that they served society and gave somebody some enjoyment. Let the staff and lawyers pay for the print and delivery.

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