No matter if you’re just starting out in the fashion industry or you’re a seasoned model, it can be hard to understand your contracts and your rights. Agencies and clients have their own legal teams and enough resources to draft complicated contracts that are heavily in their favor. These contracts are often long and full of legal jargon that is hard to understand. However, these contracts can have very serious consequences for you: from losing rights over your name, image, and likeness, to getting locked into contracts and ending up indebted to your agency. We’re here to help you understand your rights and obligations and guide you in negotiating your contracts.
You should always make sure you read and understand your contracts before signing them. Here are the most common clauses in modeling contracts that you should pay extra attention to:
This clause will determine whether your exclusive or not exclusive with the agency/client you’re signing the contract with. If the contract is exclusive, that means you can’t work with any other clients or agencies in the countries named in your contract. Exclusivity should always be limited in time and space, meaning that you’ll be tied to this one client/agency only for a certain period of time and in certain countries/states. If you have an exclusive agreement with your agency, that means you can’t accept any work that isn’t coming through the agency. You have to make sure the agency is involved with every job you take and they get a commission — otherwise you might have to pay the agency or they can terminate the contract.
If the contract is non-exclusive, that means you’re free to work with other clients or agencies anytime.
Term, termination, and auto-renewal
These clauses are especially important in contracts between models and agencies. The term will specify how long you agree to be represented by the agency for. If you have an exclusive agreement, this means that you can’t do any modeling work outside of the agency for this time period.
Auto-renewal clauses are common in the industry: this means the contract doesn’t have a clear end date, but it will stay in place until one of the parties takes action to terminate it. Model Alliance’s proposed Fashion Workers’ Act aims to get rid of the practice of contract renewals without the model’s affirmative consent. A model might want to negotiate this clause so that an agency would require a model’s affirmative consent before contract renewal.
Termination clauses tell you how either party can end the contract. Typically, either party can terminate the contract by providing notice to the other party (for example, by registered mail, by email, etc.) and the time period to do so. However, it’s important to know whether you or the agency can terminate the contract for no reason at all or if it’s only possible in specific cases.
Models usually work for clients and agencies as independent contractors, not as employees. This means the client/agency isn’t responsible for paying your taxes, contribute to your pension or healthcare and employment laws don’t apply to you (e. g. minimum wage requirements). As an independent contractor, you will be responsible for filing and paying your taxes, so take this into account when you negotiate the compensation for certain jobs.
Intellectual property rights and usage rights
As the model, you have intellectual property right over your likeness and over photos and videos taken of you. However, you have to grant clients and agencies some intellectual property rights so they can use your images, name, and likeness. It is incredibly important that you understand what rights you’re granting: this can range from a very limited right to use specific photos for a defined purpose all the way to a full and unlimited transfer of your right when the client or the agency has full control over when, how and where your photos are shown. It’s crucial that you understand what rights you’re granting and you get compensated accordingly — if you give broader rights, you should be paid more.
You can grant an intellectual property right either through an ‘assignment’ or a ‘license’. Legally, if you ‘assign’ a right, you give up all your rights over the photos/videos and they become the property of the client/agency. If you ‘license’ a right, you give the client/agency a right to use the photos, but ultimately you are still the owner of the intellectual property.
If you license a right, this can be limited in time (the client can only use the content for a specified time period), in space (the client can only use the content in specified countries), and in media (the client can only publish the content on specified media channels and platforms). A right in perpetuity means that it’s unlimited in time (the client can use the content forever). A worldwide right means that there is no limitation to the countries/regions where the content can be published. A right in all media means there are no limitations to the media channels and platforms where the client can showcase the content.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney clause authorizes someone to act on your behalf and represent you. This clause should detail what the agency (your attorney-in-fact) has the power to do, for example, negotiate contracts or collect fees on your behalf. You should read this clause carefully and make sure you’re comfortable with what the agency has the power to do on your behalf.
Commission and deduction
If you’re working through an agency, they will be paid a commission for every job you complete. This clause must specify the exact amount of the commission that will be taken from your pay. Most often, this clause will authorize the agency to deduct the commission from your earnings. There might be a separate clause, according to which the agency is still entitled to commission on certain jobs even after the contract has ended and you’re no longer represented by that agency.
Your agency may charge certain costs for the management of your portfolio (paying for digitals, comp cards, etc.) or for accommodation and visa costs when working abroad. The contract should clearly state all these costs and expenses, whether they’re yearly recurring fees or they’re one-off payments for certain services and whether the amounts include VAT. You should exercise caution with your agency’s ability to advance expenses and deduct them from your earnings (especially without your consent), because this is how many models end up being indebted to their agencies. Models are encouraged to negotiate such clauses to request that expenses above a certain amount (e. g., $100) should be confirmed by the model. Before signing the contract, you should make sure they are comfortable with the costs and expenses that the agency can deduct from your pay.
We hope this helps you understand and negotiate your modeling contracts. If you have any feedback or specific questions, let us know in the comments or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a contract that you’d like to understand, go to www.kaveatapp.com and upload it. We’ll get back to you with a breakdown of your contract, an explanation its clauses, insights on industry standards, red flags, and clauses that you should consider negotiating.