The Business of Photography

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The Business of Photography

Read The Small Print - Chris Shain

The Importance of understanding contracts

Recently Chris Shain was asked to sign a document that allowed him to attach remote cameras to a telegraph pole in order to photograph a commercial job.

“I asked the authority involved for permission and didn’t expect there to be any trouble as my client and the authority were working on the project together. Plus I did all the hard work, identifying the exact pole, its GPS co-ordinate and describing the equipment we wished to attach.

“I get the okay and then a couple of days later I receive a form asking me to sign an indemnity and waiver.”

In other words, if the camera falls off the pole and hits someone in the head, Chris would be liable.

“The nuts and bolts were that we would be responsible if someone else damaged the pole, even though we or our camera had nothing to do with it. The insurance company’s view was that this was beyond what I was being insured for, so if I signed the form, not only would I be indemnifying the authority, I possibly wouldn’t have any PL insurance either! ( always show your insurance broker any of these forms you sign)

“What I found interesting was my lawyer’s response. He suggested I simply ask for some of the sections of the form to be removed or changed. He put a few lines through the form and sent it back. The lawyers acting for the authority made a few counter changes and eventually we ended up with an indemnity that was reasonable.

Interestingly, Chris noted, his contact at the authority said that he had given out 50 of the same indemnity forms to other contractors (from lawn mowers to builders) and they had all just signed them and sent them back without query.

“Our lawyer admitted that the chances of anything happening are pretty small, and even if the terms weren’t enforceable, you can find yourself dragged into the court system for six months trying to sort it out.”

The better approach is to read the small type and if it doesn’t seem fair and reasonable, change the terms so they are. Be prepared to negotiate.

Chris Shain is a commercial photographer working in Sydney. He is very active in business and legal issues for photographers and holds a board position with the Australian Copyright Council.

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