Taylor Swift may currently be basking in the glory of being the artist who took on Apple and won, but to a group of photographers, she’s nothing but a hypocrite.
Swift was quickly heralded as a hero. On Monday, as most of the Internet was marveling at how a single Tumblr post by one artist could make the most profitable tech company in the world execute such an immediate about face, a U.K. photographer named Jason Sheldon penned an open letter of his own — to Swift.
According to a contract from 2011 posted on his Web site, Swift’s management company, Firefly Entertainment, demands that photographers who shoot Swift’s concerts to do so on a “one-time-use” only basis and relinquish any rights to republish or sell their photos. Additionally, the contract states that Firefly has the “perpetual, worldwide right to use” the very same photographs in just about any way it sees fit, without compensating the photographer for their usage.
If photographers refuse to comply, Firefly has the right to destroy their film and kick them out.
Now.. forgive me if I’m wrong, but if you take points 2 and 3 in that contract (which is provided to Photographers who need to agree to those terms before they are allowed to do their job in photographing you for editorial outlets), it appears to be a complete rights grab, and demands that you are granted free and unlimited use of our work, worldwide, in perpetuity. You say in your letter to Apple that “Three months is a long time to go unpaid”. But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity….How are you any different to Apple? If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great.. make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support. But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?
Sheldon isn’t an amateur with a photography hobby. He’s a professional who relies on photography to make a living. He’s shot Katy Perry, Kesha, Neil Diamond, and Amy Winehouse, among others.
The post was republished on DIY Photography where it quickly picked up steam, and another photographer, Joel Goodman, tweeted a more recent and even more restrictive Firefly contract from Swift’s current 1989 World Tour.
The second contract stipulates that photographers can’t even republish their own photos on their online portfolios and, once again, grants Firefly usage rights, in perpetuity. It also states that Firefly has the right to confiscate or destroy equipment such as cameras, cell phones and memory cards.
Swift was quick to tweet her moral and financial victory over Apple, and retweeted news stories reporting it.
She did not, however, respond to Goodman.
UPDATE: A U.K. representative for Swift responded to Goodman’s complaints over the 1989 tour contract. The contract “clearly states that any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval,” the representative told the site.
“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,” the representative added. “Every artist has the right to and should protect the use of their name and likeness.”
Swift’s camp has not issued a statement about Sheldon’s complaints regarding the 2011 contract, and Sheldon called out Swift’s camp for presenting a straw man.
For the record, I never claimed they take our copyright. Just the right to use and give our images away worldwide in perpetuity, just as bad— Jason Sheldon (@Junction10) June 22, 2015
If you have a contentious contract that you present to people, yet say that it's amendable for anyone that objects to certain parts of it...— Jason Sheldon (@Junction10) June 23, 2015
then you're clearly aware that it's not a fair contract and if it IS amendable, then there is no point having it in the first place.— Jason Sheldon (@Junction10) June 23, 2015