Thursday, June 25, 2015

Is Taylor Swift a hypocrite?

Taylor Swift in Concert - Copyright © 2015 GabboTOn June 21st, music superstar, Taylor 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 her letter, Swift decried Apple Music's free three month trial policy, during which they were not going to pay royalties for playing any music. Apple is offering the free trial to entice users to sign up and eventually pay for the streaming service, but weren't going to pay the musicians, writers, producers and others who would be owed royalties, during the trial.

In her letter to Apple, Swift said of Apple's decision,

“I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company [Apple].”

Swift went on to say,“Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing.”

In my opinion, Swift was dead-on. It seems clear Apple decided to cut some of their costs of the three month free trial on the backs of those who created the music they were using.

Soon after Swift made her letter to Apple public, Apple Inc. announced they changed their policy and will pay the royalties after all.

I give great credit to Swift for standing up for herself, and especially for all the others owed royalties: musicians, lyricists, composers, producers, and others.

But the story doesn'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 the current contract Firefly Entertainment (Swift's company) is requiring concert photographers sign in order gain permission to photograph Swift's latest concert tour.

Let's be clear, Swift and her companies have every right to control the photography and videography at her concerts. They have the right to control the commercial use of her image in photographs and videos. If the contract solely did that, this part of the story wouldn't exist. The issue isn't whether or not Swift and her companies have the right to write the contract any way they see fit.
The issue is the question, “Is Swift practicing what she preaches.”
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. My read of Swift's contract for concert photographers reveals Swift expects them to give up their rights to their images, for Swift's commercial benefit, without compensating the concert photographers for their work.

Let's look at the contract.

In paragraph 2 it limits the concert photographs use to “… a one time only basis for news or information purposes within the body of related text of the publication entitled …” This means any photos made may only be used for editorial purposes, not commercial purposes, which is reasonable. More important for freelance concert photographers, however, is they can't sell images for publication to more than one outlet without obtaining written permission from Swift or her companies.

In paragraph 5, in order to gain permission to make concert images, the photographer is required to give permission to Swift and her companies to confiscate and/or destroy their equipment which contains their concert photographs, if somehow the photographer violates the contract. While this is a “dramatic” clause, I don't think it's particularly important, as Swift and her companies would likely never use it, since, if used, the negative consequences to Swift could be stunning.

It's paragraph 3, which is the one which seems to define Swift as a hypocrite.

In paragraph 3, Swift and her companies require concert photographers to grant to Swift unlimited, worldwide use, in perpetuity, of all the published images made by the photographers at her concerts, for any purpose including commercial uses, without any compensation.
Apparently, to Swift, it's not necessary she pay artists (professional concert photographers) for their work which she uses, despite this being no different than what she accused Apple of doing.
On June 23rd, according to the UK's Independent, and other publications, Swift's UK spokesperson responded to Sheldon's open letter to Swift.

The spokesperson stated, “The standard photography agreement has been misrepresented in that it clearly states that any photographer shooting 'The 1989 World Tour' has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management's approval.”

While it's true, as I mentioned above, the contract states you can ask for and possibly obtain written permission from Swift to use the concert images more than once, it's clear the point of paragraph 2 is to prevent that. In my opinion, the spokesperson's retort is disingenuous.

The spokesperson also stated, “Another distinct misrepresentation is the claim that the copyright of the photographs will be with anyone other than the photographer - this agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer.”

This statement is fallacious. Sheldon never claimed Swift's contract requires a copyright transfer of any image taken by concert photographers. Sheldon, as explained above, stated the contract is a usage rights grab as the contract allows concert photographers a one-time editorial use of their images of the concert, while granting Swift unlimited, worldwide, use of the same images for editorial and commercial use in perpetuity without compensation.

Is Swift a hypocrite in her open letter to Apple, considering her companies' contract with concert photographers?
I believe the inescapable conclusion is yes, she is.
If nothing else, if Swift wants to use photographers' images of her in concert she should pay a fair price for that use.
Professional concert photographers are every bit the artists Swift said should be paid for their work.


Ryan said...

I wasn't a fan of Swift before; too old I guess, but that rights grab is disgusting. Swift wants her cake and to eat it too. She should be ashamed!!!

Marcia said...

With her millions, how can Swift justify not paying for photo she uses to promote herself?

Gene said...

I read it's Swift father behind the contract. It's still Swift who's the star, not her father. She's even more two faced if she's hiding behind him.

George said...

That open letter to Apple was so right, but what she does in business for herself is so wrong, even worse than what Apple was going to do. Come on Swift, stop stealing other artists' work.

Jean said...

I know it's all business, but this is an "artist" giving the business to another artist. Ugly!

Kay said...

Swift has to make things right for photographers in that contract.

Anonymous said...

Swift sounded noble in her open letter defending musical artists across the globe, but it's obvious she used others as cover for her own greed as shown in that awful contract of hers.

Tim said...

I like her music, but after reading this report, no more Swift music for me. Hypocrites like her burn my britches.

Natalie-Boston said...

I asked my high school daughter to read your article, as she and her friends are huge Swift fans. Not so much any more after reading your article and looking at that contract for themselves. She plans to go to art school, and wants to be a photographer herself. I guess she's now gotten a dose of the ugly side of the business which I hope is a good lesson. She said she and her friends have stopped buying Swift music, at least until Swift and her company treat photographers fairly.

Morris said...

The terms of that contract are amazing. I wish I could get away with terms like that in my business. She's clearly two faced, and her spokesperson's comments are nothing but lies.

Kay said...

You're right Morris. She's just another two-faced, self-indulgent star who thinks she's better than everyone else.

Robert said...

Wow, when you look at that contract all you can do is shake your head. Swift really has gall complaining about Apple when she's even worse. She's not paying for the concert photos she uses from these pro photographers for just 3 months. She's not paying them FOREVER. That's THEFT in my book.

Larry said...

Ned, I think you'd delete my comment if I used the language I want to use about Swift. She is so two faced. I showed your article to my twin daughters who loved her. They won't be buying her songs any more.

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