I'm asking, not really for myself as I don't really shoot stills anymore, but as an example for the readers. The hypothetical I gave happened to me over and over again. It wasn't that I was never paid, it was that editorial always paid very, very late. Hachette publications paid on time, but Conde NEVER paid without problems. Only Vibe stiffed me, straight up.
In any case, lets assume the typical Conde Nast situation:
- Where are you based, where did the shoot take place?
- Where is the magazine published, where is the head office for the publisher and if different, where is the editorial office located that assigned you?
- Is the publication still in business, have they restructured since the project you shot?
- Did you register the copyright on the images you created for them anywhere?
CD to the Copyright Office with a check, pre publication. Copyright on all metadata with scope of license.
- Was the work published, if-so when?
Any minute now.
- Did the publication issue a P.O. or provide an assignment contract of any kind? If-so what are their terms of payment?
My paper, which is really their old paper, with payment dates and copyright transfer terms modified to favor me. This was part of the problem, as new PE's moved in they wanted me to use their new contracts which were/are abusive. The machinery for paying invoices was geared to 90 - 120 days, which was the new contract, versus 20 days on my invoice. I was tired of being their bank.
- Did you provide the publication with an assignment contract, if-so did you get it signed-off?
My paper, signed off every time. Terms usually ignored, only key items such as license/scope of delivery/and amounts were ever honored.
- Have they given you any specific reason as to why you have not been paid?
You name it, I've heard it.
How would you handle this situation?
Now that I think about it, my problems were always solved with patience and sugar, which got me additional editorial and usually got me paid within 60 days. I managed the process through shame, politics, and over drinks. The more interesting situation is where you don't want to shoot for them again and they haven't paid at all, and they have exceeded the license. How did you handle the Irish Guardian or Times? Lets hear about that.
I was under the impression we would actually be helping to get the unpaid invoice from Loft of 2007 settled, which would be a great thread to be a part of, something practically useful and not just armchair expertize.
For an editorial collection problem each one is too specific for hypothetical examples in my experience.
Based on your comments I will put it to you that there are expectations which need to be managed on the part of every photographer entering into an editorial assignment these days.
1. Yes in practical terms you are the bank, get used to it
2. Long payment terms are the rule, with some rare exceptions, blame corporate governance
3. Agreements are frequently rewritten to reflect changing times, this usually means a tilt in their favor.
4. Some publications hold the view they (may) never pay
As you said, you got tired of this arrangement and it sounds as though you no longer do editorial, we all have that choice it's up to each of us to make our own decisions accordingly.
Regarding the Irish invoice, it was an unusual situation because I had never shot for them, they appropriated an image I had shot previously for a feature in the London Telegraph Magazine - who BTW paid on time, every time.
I saw my work in the Irish publication and contacted them, by this time the portrait in question was very valuable to me as the subject indicated it was his favorite and it was licensed in many countries. So I felt it was important to deal with unauthorized usage firmly.
To make a long story short it took several months of them stalling and dodging me to a ridiculous degree, but I was paid. This was after making clear that I would take legal action - which I was absolutely prepared to do.
I also pointed out that I would publicize the incident in every means possible, including to all of their advertisers - which I would have done no question.
In general, I am told that I'm pretty good at collecting invoices, there is no secret recipe except maybe to properly attend to the business side of the shoot in advance and be prepared to play hard if it gets to that point. I find a lot of photographers to be afraid of the consequences if they go hard at those few clients who really deserve it. I also have seen photographers set aside common sense when a smallish publication from halfway around the world with a brutally long list of unpaid photographers calls for a shoot.
My view is simple, the images are my property, if an unintentional oversight occurred which delayed my invoice, or if there are unforeseen circumstances which precipitate longer terms then what was mutually agreed, then lets work it out.
If on the other hand I come to the conclusion it was a business strategy to not pay me, or pay me at some vague-maybe date in the future, then I will hit them with everything I've got until I am paid, including the individuals involved if necessary.
Ask anyone who knows me