Not many people enjoy thinking about, or reading, contracts. However they are vital to collaboration projects. Remember that the aim of a contract is to protect you and be sure everyone clearly understands their roles and deadlines. When put that way, contracts sound pretty good. There’s no need for them to be confusing, long or tedious. In fact, it’s often better when they aren’t. However there are a lot of vital points a contract should cover. These include, for example:
- How will conflicts be resolved?
- Who owns the material being produced?
- Is there a rights reversion clause? What are the conditions of rights revision?
- If money is involved, how will it be paid? When will it be paid?
- Who is liable if there is litigation from a third party?
- How is the material/product going to be used?
- Can it be reproduced in another format?
- What is the goal of the project?
- What, specifically, is each person producing and when?
It’s not always necessary to have a lawyer or agent look over your contract, but it’s a good idea. Particularly if any of the phrasing is confusing to you, or in some kind of jargon you are not 100% sure of. Never sign anything unless you understand what you are signing. It’s much better to spend the money on a lawyer at the contract stage, than it is to spend money on a lawyer when everything goes wrong. If you are going to hire a lawyer, be sure it is one familiar with your industry and this type of contract. Defence lawyers don’t know anything about creative contracts and can often do more harm than good! If you are going to sign without a lawyer, ask yourself these questions first:
- Do you understand everything in the contract?
- Are you happy with all the elements of the contract?
- Has anything been left out of the contract?
- Do you feel comfortable working with all members of the team?
- Are there any roles that aren’t filled that will impede the project?
Even if you don’t think a contract is necessary, it is. Even if you are working with friends or family (maybe especially if you are working with friends and family). Thankfully, regardless of your industry or project, there are easy to find templates online that you can find, download and alter to fit your project and needs. Hopefully you’ll never need them. The only time a contract isn’t necessary is if you are happy to lose all your work, for your partners to make millions on the project and for you not to see a dime.
Remember the key to a good contract, and a good project, is clear communication. You need to understand your needs and the needs of the other people in the group. The aim is not for one person to ‘win’, but for everyone to be happy, safe and leave feeling satisfied with the outcome.
Don’t be afraid of the contract, it’s what is best for everyone!
Part three of series on collaboration is coming soon. We cover tools and software that you can leverage to make your collaboration easier and more efficient. Stay tuned…