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Copyright, what’s that for then?

July 25, 2008

Often in the past I’ve discussed the possibility, in a tongue in cheek manner, of writing a manual that prospective clients must read and be tested on before I/we will start working for them. I’ve had a few experiences lately which have reminded me of this concept, and although I will certainly not be sending these notes to actual clients I feel I should get them down here, if only for my sanity, and possibly your entertainment. I’ve created a category ‘Client Manual’ which I’ll post them in. This is the first one.

Copyright, it’s a difficult concept (apparently)

One of the problems with being so heavily ingrained in an industry or culture is that you sometimes forget that those outside it may have trouble dealing with concepts you take for granted, and explaining them can be, putting it politely, a challenge. I spend a fair amount of time reading Not Always Right which seems to mainly focus on retail customers. It amazes me, the utter lack of logic people can display on a day-to-day basis, but then I compare it to my own industry, where people are spending ten times as much dealing with long term projects, but still they don’t appear think it through any more deeply than if they were buying a Big Mac.

As an aside, I feel I should point out, that although I will rant and bang my head on the desk over the decisions and dealing with some clients, for the most part (I’d say 80%) the people I deal with are intelligent, easy to deal with professionals. I don’t talk about them because there’s no story there.

Anyway, back to the point. We were recently approached to do a website for a small business. Should be a simple job, a straightforward attractive layout with 10 – 15 pages of light content. Basic SEO and some nice photographic treatments. So, off I went, did my research, got the quotes in from the designer, copywriter, etc and went back to the prospective client. I had, as is habit, sent the proposal/quote to a few colleagues and peers as I like to ensure we are generally competitive and not about to charge massively outside the going rate, feedback was that we were massively undercharging, but I let it go on this one as it was for a startup business and it’s good to hook ’em in when they are young.

Prospective client was not happy, quote was apparently MASSIVE, and way more than anyone else had quoted. I doubted the veracity of this claim but agreed we could try and cut it down a little for them if they were happy for us to cut out some of the services we were supplying.

I offered a discount on the photography and copy if both could be supplied up front. No problem says the client, they can supply both photographs and copy. Excellent, that will make life easier all round. Here are some of our competitors and suppliers brochures for they copy they say. Excuse me? Here are some of our competitors and suppliers brochures for they copy they say. Err, we can’t do that, I explain why not. Oh.

Photography, we don’t really need that do we? Well, it will help sell your products. We can take some photos ourselves? Urm… you can but they may not be up to the quality we would like for the website (no offense and all that). Oh, ok here’s some trade magazines, just scan in the pictures and use those. Excuse me? Oh, I know some of the people in the trade mags, it will be ok. Urm… not sure about that, if you can give me the photos in a sensible format with some written permission we might be able to do something but we can’t just take other people’s photos. Why not? I explain copyright again.

Some time passes, prospective client is not happy, we are messing them about, they need a website and they need it right now, we are not playing ball by being difficult over this whole copyright thing. In what I suspect may have been a moment of utter madness I get a missive from one of the heads of the business something along these lines

Can you visit [url of another web studio], they did a website for one of our competitors, can you just copy that website, just get it done and then we can work out the money later.

I nearly cried. Although it did clear something up. This other studio is where one of the alleged ‘reasonable’ quotes came from. I checked their pricing guide, their price for an absolute basic 2 page site was what prospective client has said they quoted, their price for what prospective client wanted was pretty much the same as I had quoted. At this point I am considering a polite ‘please go away’ letter to prospective client. But I can never give up on a challenge.

The saga is a continuing one, I would imagine if someone points prospective client at this they will decide to go elsewhere, I don’t mean any malice towards prospective client but they have made several basic mistakes in their dealing with us, let’s go through these:

Copyright is serious business. I’m not going to go into details here because I would imagine you know this. The client didn’t. They did not understand either the legal implications or the moral implications. Basically, you cannot just take someone else’s work and use it without permission/license/etc.

There often seems to be a misunderstanding over the value of services, I find people don’t get why they should pay for one or more of:

  • Copywriting
  • Photography
  • Design

These are all things that people have to work on, as easy as we make it look, it isn’t. We have studied and practiced at our respective areas and as much as anything else you are buying experience and knowledge. We will not lead you down the wrong path, in fact we will steer you straight as much as possible. If you ask for something retarded we will tell you as much (politely), we won’t just do it because it’s what you ask for. Ok, that was off the subject a little, but my point is that effort goes into creating this stuff. When someone has created these things for someone else we have no right (morally or legally) to just take them and use them. Don’t think for a moment that no-one will notice. If we do our job right and promote your business effectively then I hope someone would notice.

I personally, and this extends to Shinytastic, have a zero tolerance attitude to stealing other people’s work. We will not lift photos, copy, design elements, etc from another site without express permission. By express permission, I mean from the copyright holder, not from the client as a sort of ‘we’ll deal with it if anything goes nasty’ type permission.

Quoting is no fun at the best of times, it’s less fun when the client pulls unrealistic numbers out of their head and claims they are quotes from reputable sources. We do this for a living and we have a fair knowledge of what other people charge for the same service. Frankly if I’m given something astoundingly unlikely I’ll just phone the studio/agency it’s purported to have come from and ask them if it’s real.

A website can be expensive, but it depends on your demands and requirements, if you want something massively impressive, then I’m afraid it’s going to cost more, if you are willing to cut down your requirements it will cost less. We will not make it cheaper by just stealing the more expensive bits from elsewhere.

We don’t do cheap and nasty websites, I don’t think theres much point, I think it makes the client’s business look cheap and nasty and does nothing for our portfolio. If you don’t have much to spend now we can come up with a cheaper solution (within reason), but you need to take our advice on board. If you don’t have a multi-national budget you won’t get a site to challenge a multi-national, but that doesn’t always matter. Buy within your means and work upwards, we are here to advise as much as to create.

If you have a budget you need to stick to, just tell us. We are not going to screw you over and it makes it much easier to write a proposal if we know up-front if you can afford it. I know people like to play the whole battle of wills thing between client and supplier to see who does best of out of the pricing, but honestly, it’s a waste of both our times, tell us what you can afford to spend and we will tell you what you can afford.

Supplying assets can be a source of confusion. Putting the legal issues aside for a moment. If we were willing/able to take copy and photos from an existing printed publication we would expect the photos supplied on disk and the copy supplied in an email or word document. Otherwise we are just going to have to charge for the time spent slaving over a hot scanner/keyboard. Fine if you have the budget, but if your aim is to cut costs in the first place, this isn’t the way to go about it.

One last thing Logos. As part of the package offered to prospective client, we included a corporate branding package, just a simple logo with colour scheme and stationary. Prospective client decided they didn’t want to pay for the logo and asked, ‘Can’t you just do us our name in a pretty font instead’. Yes, we can. We call that a logo.

I feel I have waffled far too much and strayed from the point to a silly degree. But there’s lessons in there for both clients and studios (if you can cut through my crap to find them). Have I missed the point? Am I being too much of an evangelical perfectionist?

Category: Client Manual

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  • Interesting article and all too familiar (in attitude, if not actual practice).

    Someone decided it would be a great idea to store all our licenced and corporate images on a public Picasa site and didn’t understand why we wanted them to take the library down. Gah!

    We also get the same “What’s the problem?!” attitude when it comes to testing; sadly followed by complaints when something they didn’t test goes live with an error. People. Can’t work with them… can’t ignore them 😉

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I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).

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