In late June, Swift wrote an open letter to Apple Inc. explaining why she was holding back her album “1989” from Apple Music, the new Apple streaming service.
In the letter, Swift decried Apple Music's free three month trial policy, during which they were not going to pay royalties to the musicians, writers, producers and others for playing any music. Swift said of Apple's decision,
“I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company [Apple]. …Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing.”
Most people in the arts including me, and the general public thought Swift was dead-on. Soon after Swift made her letter to Apple public, the company announced they changed their policy and would pay the royalties after all.
The story didn't end there …
A day after Swift published her letter, Jason Sheldon published an open letter via PentaPixel, to Swift, accusing her of essentially treating professional concert photographers via her contract with them, the same unfair way she accused Apple of treating musical artists.
Accompanying the open letter, PentaPixel published a copy of then contract. Firefly Entertainment (Swift's company) was requiring concert photographers sign it in order to gain permission to photograph Swift's latest concert tour.
In her open letter, Swift called-out Apple for using musicians’ work for Apple Music's commercial benefit without compensating the artists for their work. Swift's contract for concert photographers revealed Swift expected them to give up their rights to their images, for Swift's commercial benefit, without compensating the concert photographers for their work. Hence, she was hypocritical in her condemnation of Apple.
The problems of the contract were many.
- The contract limited the photographer to use the photographs made at the concert only once, and only for news or informational purposes. The photographer couldn't use it for their portfolio.
- The contract allowed Swift to use any of the photographers published images at her discretion, for any purpose, world-wide, in perpetuity, without compensation or attribution.
- The contract allowed Swift to confiscate or destroy a photographer's equipment if they somehow violated the contract.
Numerous news organizations, magazines, as well as news and information websites, world-wide, stood-up for concert photographers by announcing they wouldn't publish any images made at Swift's concerts. Some said they wouldn't cover her concerts at all.
As of today, it's been announced that Swift and her company have rectified the inequities of her stance by rewriting her contract for photography of her concerts.
Working primarily with Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)*, on behalf of NPPA, and fourteen news and professional associations, Swift revised her concert photography contract.
The follow are the revisions to Swift's contract for photographers covering her concerts.
- Swift and her representatives no longer have the power to forcibly remove images from photographers' cameras, nor destroy their equipment. Swift does reserve the right to have the images deleted if it's determined the photographer violated the contract.
- Photographers and publications now may use the images more than once without asking Swift for permission. The use must still be editorial, not commercial, but photographers couldn't use the images commercially anyway, unless Swift agreed to and signed a model release.
- Swift reserves the right to use the published concert photographs at her discretion, but only for use on social media sites, and will provide full attribution for the images used. Should Swift wish to use the photographs for any other purpose, she must negotiate with the photographer for such use.
With these changes, Swift has shown she now understands that arts' professionals are the same throughout the arts, whether it's music or the visual arts. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end for predatory, rights grab concert photography contracts for any concert and musical start or group. The photographers covering the concerts are photo-journalists who should never have to “pay” to do their work, or have any less rights to do their job than reporters.
* The article's author, Ned S. Levi is a long time member of the National Press Photographers Association.