Hatch Session #5 Recap – Budgets, Negotiations and Contracts

One thing I always tell my students when they take Ignite is that cultivating a good relationship with your lawyer is invaluable. Luckily for us, and our Hatch artists, Jim Grace is the kind of lawyer at the forefront of the legal issues faced by artists. Jim is the Executive Director of the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston, and we were incredibly fortunate to have his expertise to guide our latest Hatch session. Here are some highlights from the day:

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Jim Grace, Executive Director of the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston, schools us on how to best legally protect our artistic interests.

Intellectual Property: Jim began with an in-depth primer on intellectual property and some of the ways it can be protected. Of the three most widely used protections against infringement (copyright, trademark and patent), copyright and trademark were of the most interest to the artists, with several questions voiced about both. Jim helped not only to clearly define the differences between the two, but also to define the legal implications and responsibilities of the artist for each. As it relates to art created with community, Jim stressed that if the overall vision of the work is the providence of the artist, and not the individuals, then each individual can only hold claim to the their small piece. The work as a whole and vision is the intellectual property of the artist. Jim also discussed additional ways for artists to protect themselves, including filing for copyright and defining terms such as “work for hire” in which case the artist might not actually own the rights to work created for another entity. Alternatives to litigation if infringement was unintended were mentioned, including when to let the violation “go”, such as cases where the overall exposure or popularity of the piece was of greater benefit to the artist’s career.

Michael Jones (left) discusses his experiences with negotiation while Orion Cook (right) looks on.
Michael Jones (left) discusses his experiences with negotiation while Orion Cook (right) looks on.

Negotiation:

A lot of our conversation for the day revolved around negotiation, particularly because as artists, we are negotiating constantly. Highly stressed in this segment was the need to not only identify your personal negotiation “default”, but also to recognize the “default” of your negotiation partner. Typical negotiation prejudices and myths were debunked, resulting in greater understanding of the implications past experience might have in hindering a current collaboration process. Jim asked everyone to participate in a short exercise with a partner to recognize our own negotiation practices. Standing across from each other in two rows, each pair was told that in order to receive $1000, they must convince their partner, in one minute, to come to their side. Each person’s natural negotiation style became readily apparent as we dissected the effectiveness of each group’s communication and outcome. Jim also identified 5 different strategies for negotiation, the implications on the overall relationship between the partners involved and the best uses of each strategy depending upon the intended outcome. A strategy such as avoidance might seem merely negative, however could be useful in certain situations, such as responding to certain types of negative correspondance. Conversely, the strategy of collaboration gave much greater importance to overall relationship building and resulted in a better overall outcome for both parties with less opportunity to “leave money on the table”.

How could we decipher which strategy to use? And how could we reach the best outcome through collaboration, if that was our intent? To answer those questions, it was important for the artists to understand the differences between Interests and Positions, and to ask the “right” diagnostic questions. An interest is a want brought to the table by a negotiating party, but it may not always represent the need from which it comes. As an example, we were given a prompt regarding asking to rent an apartment. One side of the room was charged with asking for an apartment on the 14th floor and the other was charged with answering their needs. Jim challenged the artists to think beyond just the questions being asked by each side, but to probe each interest fully to understand the underlying need behind it. In this instance, the interest of the 14th floor apartment may be based on the need to be farther away from the street and noise, which could easily be satisfied by another higher floor apartment if none were available on the 14th floor. Having the insight and tenacity to go beyond just the stated interests of the other party meant that each side brings more to the table with which to negotiate. Both parties are more likely not only to satisfy each other needs, but to build a stronger, more trusting relationship as well. And ultimately, the most successful negotiations tend to yield this relational outcome as well as solving the problems of each side.

Orion Crook (standing - left) and William Massey (standing - right) consider possible scenarios regarding artistic participation during a proposed project scenario.
Orion Crook (standing-left) and William Massey III (standing-right) consider possible models for artist participation while workshopping project scenarios.

Contracts, Proposals and Budgets:

In order to best understand the kinds of projects and work agreements our artists had dealt with in the past, Jim asked that they submit any contracts and budgets that they felt comfortable sharing to be discussed and potentially workshopped prior to attending his workshop. Our artists vulnerably shared several different work agreements, proposals and projects, even volunteering information regarding some “in the works” collaborations. Jim stressed that not only were concerns regarding protection of artwork and assets important, but that the artists consider their needs for insurance, liability, tax and overhead expenses when creating budgets and negotiating contracts. The artists considered a wide variety of scenarios: from needs for maintenance and upkeep of artwork to considering the repercussions and difficulties of utilizing unorthodox performance spaces. Also noted was need to consider whether the contract created reflects any perceptions about one party or the other being “screwed”. While it is important to protect our assets and insure that clear expectations are maintained, if an artist preparing a work meant to connect and engage community then asks those same stakeholders to sign lengthy, overcomplicated releases, this action might not engender the intended result of the project.

 

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