Juan Luis Garcia, a graphic designer, photographer, and art director, was approached by the ad agency hired to design the posters for Spike Lee's new film, Oldboy. Despite being told that "the budget was small and that they could only pay me peanuts," he was promised that if Spike Lee liked any of them, he'd be "compensated fairly through the licensing buyout fee." Instead, Juan received threats, no money, accusations of wrong doing and his posters taken as the agency's own -- down to the copyright claim.
The agency told me, Congratulations, Spike loved a couple of the posters. Yours is going to be the key art., and I was thrilled. But when it came time to negotiate the licensing buyout fee the agency made an insultingly low offer. But they said that the important thing wasnt the money it was the exposure and potential for more work. After thinking about it long and hard I had to decline. I tried to negotiate but they refused. I make the same amount of money in a single day as a photo assistant as what they offered and I had worked on these almost exclusively for two months. Plus there was still more work to be done so I had to refuse.
The agency was furious. They told me that I didnt want to mess with Spike Lee, that I would never work again, that I was a despicable human, that they wish they never met me, and that they were going to sue my ass to oblivion. For what, I honestly dont know. We never signed any contracts or work-for-hire agreements and I certainly never agreed to donating or selling any copyright of my work without a licensing fee.
The worst part of all this is that I never even got paid the peanuts they owed me. I was fine with it as long as they were out of my life. I couldnt take another condescending phone call because I was only a designer. Many sleepless nights forced me to chock it up as a loss and learning experience and try to move on with my life.
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