Sign contracts to protect you, not to sell you

The good sense of contracts.

There are many ideas about contracts that strive for the thoughts of money, selling, buying. That’s fine. And necessary. Because it’s about the exchange of service, material, creativity too.

I’ll take a look at the edge of solutions about redefining the reason to create a standard in contracts. Because you have standards, whether you are aware of them or not. The tone (in the communication). The respect. The mutual appreciation.

When you think that’s not realistic or too emotional: Don’t accept this poorness in contracts. Because the reality is, you want to leave contracts when you feel disrespected. You don’t trust your contract partner when he is focused on money (for example) only. Can be fame too, and you are left out of public appreciation.

When the contract is about money ‘only’, each side can start to stretch the contract as much as possible to make the most rake-off. Maybe it’s even verbatim to the contract, maybe it’s about something the contract didn’t capture.


In the publishing industry, it happens, that you signed a contract with good conditions for your work, your main exploitation of rights. Good basic fee (based on the sparse standard), good percentage participation. Ancillary rights are in it as usual, and perhaps you managed 50% of the basic fee as payment for those. Ok. The next thing happening is, the publishing company is using their rights to remainder, and dispose of the book for a low price. Straight after the legal vesting period is over. Nothing wrong with that, when the book didn’t go well. But:

This happens to good-selling books. No second edition, no further incoming for the author, illustrator, the creator. And it’s the percentage participation that brings money in the long term.

Very often it goes hand in hand with the use of an ancillary right. The company publishes a cheap anthology of this book, and you receive 50% of the basic fee. One time. You do not participate per percentage participation. Remember? They can run the anthology forever, and you will not participate at all. So they swapped the original work to the anthology, and you are left out of the participation. Does it conform to the contract? Yes. Did you sign up for a treatment like this? No.

The music industry is flooded with stories like that. Prince was one of the first artists to articulate very memorable that his contracts didn’t lead him to artistic freedom but slavery.

Another spin: You allowed a small fashion label to use one of your images. You put in the contract the conditions of a simple right of use, area restriction, and all these professional aspects. You agreed to low pay because they just started, and they explained their expense and outlay to you. Nothing wrong with supporting something, someone you believe in, and sympathize with. The next thing happening is, the production is outsourced to a cheap provider and the manufacturing costs are sinking. Ok. But: They don’t inform you. They don’t include you in the higher benefit of the margin. Did you sign the contract to the conditions? Yes. But one of the reasons, you signed to these conditions, changed.

When you stand in opposition with someone who should be your partner, that’s hard to handle, and you will always be anxious to be betrayed. Whether it’s financial or emotional or artistic. And you can not exclude every possible misbehavior, every possible outcome, or change of circumstances for an entire contract period. So you better stabilize a contract by ethical standards also.

To manifest ethical standards with your partners, you should be able to title them. That can be much more difficult than you think. But it’s worth the quest. You will understand yourself better. You will learn what you need in relationships, professional and probably private too.

One example is transparency. When you are a person who feels the natural need to play fair and square, you will suffer in a ‘partnership’ with someone who doesn’t play with open cards. You should be able to end the contract when transparency was a condition and the partner broke the rule.

Imagine (sorry, I couldn’t resist). You are sitting at the table, with the contract, with the future partner. You tell him, that one of your conditions is transparency. The partner says ok. And you say, that when he/she counteracts, the contract is canceled. To his/her costs.

I like that. It’s powerful. Do you want to sign with someone who isn’t willing to agree on transparency? When you are a play fair and square person, you will not only lose (very likely) money in the long term. Parts of your energy, of your enthusiasm, will fade. Everywhere, people are losing their joy of creating because of bad business conditions. This has relevance to the economy.

Perhaps in the future, there will be an addendum with a number of ethical obligations in contracts. Artistry could be an area to establish this attempt. Or fair-related business branches, organic, eco-friendly … why not? I can see that. Several companies already have ‘ethics and compliance’ notes on their websites.

This isn’t a fancy dream only. A business partnership based on the same goals, same ethical standards is a stable, enduring, and fruitful constellation. And that is a good precondition for success, also financial, of course. On the other hand, a lot of companies, cooperations, and careers collapsed because of personal matters and inconsolable differences between all involved.

The good sense of a contract is to protect everyone involved. To build a partnership that benefits all ‘sides’. To create a WE instead of opponents, you have to be on guard all the time. And to create a WE, your aims and goals should be the same. Otherwise, it will fall apart sooner or later. *

You will find several companions with a goal like a number 1 hit. But do you want it to the price of a lonely heartthrob image, hiding your spouse? When one of your goals is authenticity too, that will not work permanently. The list of people who got caught in conditions that oppose them is mind-boggling, and tragic too.

shortlist: know your (true) aims. Go for it.

* That’s inevitable, like two persons with different destinations. Same in personal life.