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Associations Profiting from Speaker Materials

N. Brecher

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When speaking at association conferences, all of them have required I sign a royalty-free license for them to use my materials in current and future revenue-generating endeavors. They've posted my program handouts on their Web sites to download for no charge and sell my taped presentations long after I am gone. Is there any way to restrict this or to share in their financial gain? Although a paid speaker, I am also an industry expert at these conferences. Is this standard procedure for any speaker?


There were so many wonderful ideas, that I've summarized them here. You may also read the detailed responses below.

  • Put your product order form in the handout materials
  • Negotiate a royalty for every tape sold (possibly with the recording company)
  • Allow a one-time usage or put a time limit on it
  • Say, "I'm glad you would like to use my materials, the cost for that is..."
  • Include in your speaker packet the costs to video tape, audio tape, or buy the PowerPoint file from you
  • Accept the agreement if the marketing value is worth it to you
  • Put a price on it and waive it to show the value
  • Include your copyright notice and "used with permission" on materials
  • Allow them to use it for free within their group for educational purposes, but cannot sell it
  • Add a one-year limit on sales of recordings
  • Negotiate: Get something in trade
  • Make sure your contact information and products are on your handout
  • Require two master quality recordings of your presentation and add to the contract that you can reproduce the recording for sale in non-competing markets
  • Include a clause in the contract that explicitly states that you retain copyright and full rights to publish the materials in the future--in any form, in part or in whole
  • Negotiate limiting publishing rights to only participants in the conference
  • Change your handouts from revenue-generating to an advertising piece for you

-- An Association's Conference Manager's Response

NB's Note: I was able to speak to an association conference manager with whom I have worked many times and asked for candid input. Here is her response (paraphrased):

They always try for everything. When asked for changes to their waiver agreement, they almost always say no, and then see what response they get. If the person objects nicely, but strongly, they will reconsider ... IF

  1. they want the speaker/topic badly enough, and/or
  2. they have few alternatives, i.e., not enough potential speakers/topics that they want in their pool of choices. She continued that, if they have many speakers from which to select (and she said that is most often the case), they may not negotiate. On audio taping, she said they are more likely to agree to not taping than to pay a royalty.

-- Joel Blackwell

Just say no is one way. Another is to say, "I'm glad you would like to use my materials, the cost for that is..."

My standard speaker packet includes the option to video tape me, audio tape me or buy the PPT and the prices. Yes, they are taking advantage of you, but you have to ask if maybe the marketing value is worth it. I would certainly require them to put your copyright notice on it with "used with permission" and also include your contact information.

At the least put a price on it then waive it so they understand it has value. Sounds like they are used to dealing with non-professional speakers and treating you the same.

-- Lois Creamer

Great question, and one that comes up a sometime for all of us. I have handled it this way. I tell the group that they may tape, use my handout, and even use my PowerPoint presentation. However, they may not SELL any of it. They may use it for free within their group for educational purposes. (I've also had one client that I said could sell one of my presentations if all the profits went to their scholarship fund. They were happy.) If anyone is to PROFIT on the sale of my intellectual properties, it's going to be me.

If they still insist you sign a contract giving away rights, that's your call. I would be very hesitant to sign one. After all, our intellectual properties are all that we have in our business. I never want to give them away.

-- Paul Radde

I always put in a one-year limit on sales of my presentation recording -- one year from the date of the presentation. I suspect that in most cases agreements are not scrutinized for alteration. If you do alter something, make sure you put your initials beside the part you wrote in or eliminated.

Everything is negotiable, but not if you simply comply. Get something in trade, or make sure your handout will go on line with your contact information, and even mention of product you have available.

I always write into my audio release that I will be given two master quality recordings, and that I can reproduce this recording for sale in non- competing markets.

-- Ron J.

I always limit the time to one year or less.

-- Rebecca Morgan

I recently had that --- they wanted my PPT slides as well. I allowed them to put the handout on the CD, as it has my product order form in it, and contact info. But I didn't allow them to have the PPT slides.

In the past I have been successful at negotiating a royalty for every tape of my session that was sold. But that was negotiated directly with the recording company. I've also allowed them to sell my pre-prepared audio version of the same talk that I sell, and I give them a 20% royalty, rather than them giving *me* a 10% royalty on the recording they do live.

Also, make sure you don't sign away the rights. Give them a one-time usage, or put a time limit on it. It's like when you submit an article for a magazine, you allow them "one time No. American serial rights." Do something similar, or you can't use your own stuff.

BTW, SpeakerNet News has conducted two teleseminars on rights -- you might want to get the recordings. One was with Victoria Stein, and the other was with Patti Eyres. Check them out to find out what was covered.

-- Marilyn Snyder

If I were you under these circumstances, I would have a very limited handout! Create a 1-page handout that has your contact information in a prominent position and then a few major bullet points. Luckily, this has happened only rarely for me.

-- Alex Brown

I do a lot of speaking in associations. Almost all require that I give them the right to publish the handouts, slides, recordings, and videos before and after the show. Some even prevent me from publishing the materials before the event.

Ironically, PMI charges about $20 for people to download my papers and slides from their Web site, while the exact same papers are available from my Web site for free. I do not try to charge for these materials, so I am not concerned about giving the association publishing rights.

I do worry about them taking away my publishing rights, and I have successfully had conference organizers write in clauses making explicit that I retain the copyright and that I retain full rights to publish this material in the future in any form, in part or in whole. That point is usually easy to gain, and is in the basic terms of many associations' speaker agreements.

I have heard that it is much harder to negotiate away THEIR right to republish your work. As a practical matter, they need to publish it to participants, so you need to give them some limited publishing rights. Usually they want full publishing rights, and many associations will simply not consider you as a candidate to speak if you reject their speaker's agreement. I guess it would depend on your bargaining strength, whether you could negotiate limiting their publishing rights to only participants in the conference. At keynote speaker may have that leverage, but I believe that most track speakers will not. In project management, conference organizers usually get many times more proposals than they have speaking slots, so they are not likely to negotiate terms.

A possible solution is to accept that the association will publish this material, and change it from a revenue-generating piece to an advertising piece. Develop other products that relate to the piece, and generate revenue from those. Perhaps a set of tapes that go with a paper that has been published, or turning the single speech into the introduction for a longer seminar-on-tape. The CD of the first speech might be given away or sold inexpensively by the association, but you can sell the larger product.

I have often warned people not to pay money to download my papers, because they are available for free from my own Web site. I believe that this practice drives traffic to my Web site, both for people who are looking for a specific paper, and for people who wonder what else they might be able to get for free from my site. Giving away parts of your product may help with your own marketing. If you can get the association to give away that same material, they are only helping you market yourself. If you can get them to sell it, you create the impression that this information is valuable and you are giving something away that ought to cost money.

I hope my wordy response is useful! I look forward to hearing from other speakers, and I hope you get some ideas on how to avoid these terms in speakers' agreements. I always dislike reading these agreements and seeing all the rights I am giving up, so that I can go speak for them for free. I do it all the time for professional recognition, growth, and my own enjoyment, but the association definitely gets the sweet end of this deal.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions