When good intentions are not enough

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2009 at 7:25 am


When good intentions are not enough

"Learning from others' mistakes"

Oral communication can easily be misunderstood, although for centuries ancient civilizations built their systems of beliefs based on the sacredness of the spoken word. Time has passed and the sacredness of our spoken word has dissipated. Most of the time, people rely on other good-hearted people’s support without knowing that sometimes good intentions are not enough. So, how to avoid a serious misunderstanding?

Since verbal agreements can easily be misunderstood, the only medium that will protect interested parties rights is a signed contract.

A short time ago, I was involved in a dispute with a professional photographer over privacy rights and copyrights. Everything started when this photographer offered to help us out by taking pictures of a fundraising  event we organized.

It just seemed right to let the photographer do her job. In truth, it was a relief. However, everything became complicated. In our verbal agreement, the photographer said that she didn’t offer to share the pictures for free, but Briselda and I thought she said she will. The photographer sent a CD with 12 pictures and published the most attractive pictures of our event on her Web site without us knowing it. When we realized that the pictures exhibited on her Web site were pictures we had not even seen, we asked her if we could have those pictures too. Her answer was no because she expected us to buy those pictures from her. It was a shocking and infuriating situation because the event was a fundraising party.

Supposedly, everyone in that event was in some way supporting our cause and for some reason we believed it, but we were wrong. We tried to establish a dialogue with the other party in an attempt to resolve this issue, but we didn’t receive that warm help offered at the beginning.

Instead, we received subtle intimidation and a condescending attitude. Fearless and decided to defend our rights, we respectfully let her know that we were aware of our rights, and we presented our credentials as journalism students. In fewer than 24 hours, the misunderstanding was reported to the dean of the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.

According to the photographer, she doesn’t want to share the pictures with us because she took the pictures when the party was over and in a public place.

Our argument is that although the restaurant that hosted our event was a public place, that night the restaurant was hosting a private party from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., and it cost $10. The party fliers clearly exhibited these facts. In addition, the photographer was aware of these facts because we printed some fliers in her place of work, and she received a free ticket.

After talking with several journalism professors, I came to the conclusion that even though apparently we all wanted to help, our good intentions were not enough.

According to legal aid, we can legally fight this because we both have valuable arguments. However, I don’t want to fight about this because I believe (as well as the faculty I consulted with) that what we have here is a moral issue more than a legal issue. In summary, it is not what you do, but how you do it.

Unfortunately, not everything that is legal is ethical. According to the law, she has the right to exhibit her work. Ethically, she shouldn’t because she knows that she doesn’t have our consent to publish them.

We don’t have money to buy the pictures from her, but she also doesn’t have any signed document that allows her to profit from them. I still don’t understand why we have to be in a situation that is not benefiting her or us.

Sadly, I accept that I have to be more cautious and not believe that all people have good intentions. I am a young woman who is trying to be not just a good professional but also an ethical one. It is not my style to talk poorly about people, but I like to tell the truth and share stories where people can learn from others’ mistakes.

In this moment, we are getting ready to host our second event and we will get more pictures and cooler pictures, more than anything, this time we will protect ourselves with a signed contract that protects our agreements.

Personally, I have taken this frustrating experience as an opportunity to learn, and I hope she does the same.

  1. […] When good intentions are not enough by Erika Lincango […]

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