Stop, Collaborate + Listen

[This post is a week late because I was in bed with the flu last week. Thank you all for your patience!]

Listen up good guys, because this just might be one of the most important posts I make on this blog. Today I’m going to give you some good old fashioned practical tips on collaborating.

Because here’s the thing – collaborations can be hard. They can be fun, invigorating and uplifting too, but the line between a successful collaboration and a messy one can be thin sometimes. Like any relationship, communication is key.

step 1

Yep, I mean all. of. it. It’s all about the open channels of communication. Until you sit down and have an honest-to-God conversation with each other, you can’t possibly know whether you’re on the same page about all the aspects of your collaboration.

You need to talk about the project:

–> What are you creating?
–> What is its purpose?
–> How do you want it to feel?
–> What should it look like?

You need to talk about your process:

–> How do you work?
–> Do you prefer to write on your own and discuss together later? Or do you expect to sit together most days and create?
–> Are you a one draft or a many drafts kind of person?

You need to talk about YOU – your priorities, your strengths, your weaknesses:

–> What is most important to you about this project?
–> What are you best at?
–> What are your weaker areas?
–> What are you sensitive about? (Be honest now, are you likely to get a little pissy if she corrects your grammar?)
–> How are you with deadlines?

You need to be a truth teller here, both to yourself and your collaborator.

You need to talk about the legals, the business practicalities and money:

–> Will you be writing separate sections?
–> How will you share ownership in your collaboration? (See my post on collaborations and copyright ownership)
–> What will you charge for your creation and how will you split the money?
–> How will you decide whose name goes first?
–> How will you market your product?
–> What things can you each do without the other person’s permission, and what things should you check with each other about first?

You won’t know that answers to all of these questions at the beginning of your collaboration, and some of it will evolve as you go along and your creation takes shape. But you should try to talk about as much of these things as possible from the beginning. Firstly because it establishes a good dialogue right from the start, so you’ll be comfortable talking to each other if unexpected or difficult issues pop up. Secondly because you should not assume that you know what the other person wants and how they work. Even when they’re your best friend, you can be surprised.

Step 2

If I could choose just one piece of advice to bang people over the head with, this would be it. When I worked in centres and clinics that provided creators with legal advice, I cannot tell you how many times the following scenario played out:

  • Group (often a band) comes in for legal advice because they’ve had a dispute with one of their group members
  • The dispute is about one of the things I’ve mentioned under Step One – money, or who owns what, or whether the band member can perform the song solo without the rest of the group, etc., etc.
  • Group members have never had a proper conversation about these things because “there was no need” because “we’re good mates”
  • For the same reason, nothing has been written down
  • There is therefore no evidence of what was agreed way back when the song was written, or even if an agreement was reached.

It’s so common, you guys. The problem is that it’s very hard to help people when it’s just a case of he-said she-said.

So I repeat: write shit down. Write down everything you agree on when you discuss things with each other. If only for your own memory, because you may forget things down the track. It doesn’t have to be formal; it doesn’t have to be a contract. It’s just a record. And hopefully you’ll never need it to settle a disagreement, but if you do have a disagreement you’ll be glad to have this record, believe me.

And guess what? It’s your lucky day. Because I want to make things easier for you, I have a present. I’ve put together a little PDF worksheet for you, to help you work through the kinds of legal things you might want to discuss with each other when you decide to embark on a collaboration. This doesn’t cover everything – just the copyright stuff. And it’s by no means extensive: it only applies to copyright arrangements as between you and your collaborator. It doesn’t deal with other issues, like the copyright permissions that you grant to your audience. But it’s there as a guide, to help you get started. I hope you find it useful. You can download it here: Collaboration worksheet

Happy collaborating!

Implied licences

[This is the second post in a three-part series on collaborations. The first post is here.]

In a previous post I discussed the different forms of copyright licences. There is one type of licence that I did not mention there and that is the implied licence.

The law will sometimes imply a licence in certain circumstances, even without any positive act by the copyright owner to grant a licence. Where work is provided for a particular purpose, then the law may imply a licence to use the work for that purpose.

Implied licences may be relevant to collaborations because often work is provided to fulfill a particular purpose. Let’s take the example where Sansa and Arya collaborate on an e-book with the intention that the book be used to promote subscribers to their blogs. In that situation there may be an implied licence granted to each other to use the e-book for that purpose, such as by posting extracts of the book on their blogs or giving readers copies of the e-book in exchange for signing up to a mailing list. Similarly, when Daenerys does the design for the e-book knowing that the girls intend to make the book available on their blogs, there may be an implied licence that Dany gives the girls permission to put the designed book, including her published edition copyright, on their blogs.

Implied licences can be a helpful safety net where you have already collaborated with someone else and then engaged in the kind of conduct described above (such as posting extracts to your blog) without that person’s express permission. But the problem with implied licences arises because of their very nature – they must be implied by a court after the fact and usually after a dispute. They are uncertain and therefore an unsteady legal foundation on which to rely.

The better alternative is always to talk with your collaborators about the nature of your collaboration and what you can and can’t do with the resulting work. Express agreement trumps an implied licence every time. Next week’s post (the third in my series on collaborations) will address what you should be doing and talking about right from the beginning of your collaboration.

Why I write

I’m taking a short break from writing about the law to bring you something different this week. My beautiful friend Tash from Healthy You Happy Me has invited me to participate in a blogging challenge to tell you about why I write. (Check out Tash’s post on this subject, it’ll knock your socks off!) This might seem like a strange tangent for a law blog, but I actually think it’s more connected than it seems. Copyright is intimately concerned with creativity and at heart I, too, am a creative soul. We all are.


What Am I Working On?
I have two major projects going on right now – this blog (of course) and my PhD (which is truly major). But I don’t want to talk about those projects in this post (well, a little about the blog). I want to talk about the writing I do for fun – the scribblings, the stories, the scraps of poetry.

Why Do I Write?

(1) I write because I must
Writing is a feeling for me. Sometimes the feeling washes over me, a strange mix of yearning and nostalgia, with just a hint of melancholy. Yearning for what, I don’t know. Nostalgia for nothing I can exactly put my finger on. It’s an entirely concocted nostalgia, because it is not for a time or place that is my real experience. But yearning and nostalgia are the best way I can describe it. And when that wave comes I must sit down and I must write it out. I must let it flow through me. I lose myself in that feeling and there is no coming up for air until it’s ready to release me.

This is the great paradox at the heart of copyright, one I find immensely interesting. Copyright is built on an incentive theory – it reasons that we must provide creators with legal protection and a means to sell their creations, because if they can’t make a living from what they create then they simply won’t create. There is a kind of logic to this. But things are not actually that simple. Speak to any creator about creativity and they won’t tell you about incentives. They talk about creativity as a compulsion. They create because they must. Because it is there, inside of them, and if they don’t express their creativity it will torment them, like some kind of demon. I’ve linked to it before, but Elizabeth Gilbert expresses this wonderfully in her TED talk. I understand what creators mean when they say these kinds of things. Often I write because there is no way I cannot.

(2) I write because words are my balm
I love all art – I can appreciate the beauty in visual art, or the genius behind a piece of music. But nothing can move me the way words can. It’s just how I’m programmed. (I cannot stand songs with lazy lyrics!) The right words, written in the right way, can send a shiver down my spine. They can bring me to tears. They pulsate through me. They can heal me. Most recently, I stumbled across this poem and it shifted something in me. My life is a trail of books, poems, speeches and lyrics that lay littered in my wake.

(3) I write because it is my outlet
I am a legal academic. I spend my life researching and writing about the law. I do this because I like it, but if I did only this I would go slowly insane. I have two outlets to keep me grounded and feeling creative and alive – yoga and writing. Through writing I can explore a different side of myself and I can look at the world in a more imaginative way.

I am endlessly fascinated with people who work as ‘professionals’ in demanding, high-powered careers, but who also have secret loves – other activities that really express their creativity. Sometimes it’s writing or blogging (like me), but sometimes it’s something really unexpected. I love discovering what people’s hidden passions are. The world is full of brilliant, multi-passionate people.

(4) I write this blog because I want to help people
I think it’s easy, once you’ve been involved in the law for a while, to forget that it’s not something that most people know about or understand. Like with any skill, you start to take the things you’ve learnt for granted. But every now and again someone will come to me with a question or a negative experience, and I remember that the law can be quite an intimidating and confusing thing. My number one aim with this blog is to be of service. To help people. To empower bloggers to do their thang – to create, to collaborate – secure in the knowledge that they have a grasp of the legal aspects of what they do and secure in the belief that they are supported. This blog helps me, on a personal level, to write regularly and to connect with some truly magnificent people. But at the end of the day it’s not about me. I do this for you.

This blog can be heavily legal at times, but I’m trying really hard to make the Facebook space more of a creative hub – focusing on creativity as a process as well as the legal conditions around it. I’ll be posting more videos and images over there from now on, with the hope that I can help to inspire my readers’ creativity. If you think you might be into that, jump on over and like Navigate Create on Facebook.

How Does My Writing Differ From Others In Its Genre?
Oh dear, this presumes my writing has a genre! It doesn’t. And I’m not even sure how different my writing actually is from other people’s. I don’t know and I don’t question it. I write for me, so it doesn’t really matter if there is some mimicry of the masters in there. There is something of me too, and that’s the important bit.

For the blog, my one goal is clarity. If I’m not explaining concepts clearly, then my blog is not doing its job.

How Does My Writing Process Work?
I’ve already described how writing is a kind of feeling for me. Basically, I do what one of my creative writing lecturers once described as “word vomit”. I sit down and spew it out. (Gross) When I’m properly in the zone I’m not thinking about it. I’m just writing.

When I’m writing for my PhD or work, the process is entirely different. Entirely more painful. I do lots of planning, structuring and mapping out. Sometimes I get stuck on this stage far too long. It is one area where I still experience some fear and a lot of the resistance – the just start writing! part. The day when my academic writing process is more like my fiction writing process is the day I will be one very happy little camper.

Passing On The Baton

Now it’s my turn to pass on the blogging baton!

I am so freakin’ excited and honoured that the three ladies I asked to participate all said YES! Let me introduce you to these incredible women:

March AvaAnnie Pappalardo
Not only is this gorgeous soul a kick-ass radio producer and one of the brightest + bubbliest people you will ever meet, but she also happens to be my StepMum. Yep, keeping it in the family!  Annie is the perfect person to pass the baton to because she is a writer through-and-through, and a talented one at that. She keeps a blog over at Life & Dandelions and is currently working on her first novel. I can’t wait to see her name on the bookshelves one day!


Carly Stephan
Carly is one of those amazing people I was talking about above, who manages to juggle an important career in international aid and development with her creative pursuits. (In fact, she’s currently doing field work in Fiji, helping to empower local women. Did I mention that she’s amazing??) Carly’s blog is Pockets of Peace, an oasis of sparkling positivity and light. It will lift. you. up. It really is the digital embodiment of Carly herself. I have so much admiration for this lady!



TAR_Tahlee_wall-e1350186822439Tahlee Rouillon
Tahlee is one of the most down-to-earth and hilarious people I know. Her Facebook posts make me laugh out loud, and I swear that I give her at least one mental high five each day. She just speaks my language. Tahlee also oozes creativity. She is living her life purpose by making out-of-this-world music that literally impacts your brainwaves to help you feel more focused and relaxed. Check out her meditones for yourself; they are brilliant.  Her blog is The Attitude Revolution.



TashWhat a troop, huh?! I’m really looking forward to reading their posts. And thanks again to my soul sister Tash for passing the baton to me. Tash and I became firm friends through the magic that is Groove Dance, of which Tash is a facilitator. It’s the most fun you can have exercising, and it’s a fabulous opportunity to meet kind, supportive and totally-on-your-wavelength people – trust me! :p


Next week we’ll be back on the law train, with post 2 in my series on collaborations. See you then!