Photographers, Reps Push Back on Time Inc Contract’s Rights Grab (Update) and its "over 90 iconic brands." and its “over 90 iconic brands.”

Photo agents, trade groups and individual photographers are raising alarms over the new photography contract issued last month by Time Inc., as they push the publisher to negotiate better terms.

The new contract, as written, eliminates space rates, grants Time Inc. broad rights to reuse assignment photos in affiliate brands and books, and reduces fees for reuse in related publications, books and foreign editions.

“Our position to the photographers we represent and syndicate is: Do not sign it,” says Geoff Katz, CEO of Creative Photographers Inc. (CPi), an agency that syndicates over 50 celebrity photographers and represents five photographers. “We’ve advised them that we’re in discussion and hope to strike a balance with Time that is fairer to photographers.”

“I would not recommend to any photographer we work with to sign the Time contract as it is written,” says Bill Hannigan, co-founder of the agencies AUGUST, VAUGHAN HANNIGAN and OTTO. Those agencies represent roughly 90 photographers.

Another syndication agency told PDN it had informed its roughly 50 photographers that it has sent Time Inc. comments about the contract’s terms and conditions, signaling to the photographers to put off signing the contract.

Syndication agencies, which license images shot on assignment, are pushing for revisions because the contract, in its current form, would undercut their business. Specifically, the contract would authorize Time Inc. to license assignment images “to and by third parties, each and all throughout the world, in perpetuity, in any and all media.” According to Katz, that clause would cut into photographers’ revenue from stock and syndication licensing “because it reduces the ability to offer other clients exclusivity.” In addition, photographers would no longer have the right to license any image that appears on a Time Inc. magazine cover. Katz says agents hope to negotiate with Time Inc.: “That’s the ultimate goal, to find a solution.” So far, Time has not responded.

Individual photographers have additional objections. Under the new contract, photographers would receive a day rate “up to $650” or “up to $1000” for covers, but no space rate. In other words, photographers would be paid a flat rate without regard to how many images the assigning publication uses.

“While the ‘up to $650’ day rate proposed may be sufficient for a routine assignment that is used only once and sparingly in a smaller publication, it is not enough for a more significant story used extensively [ie, with many images] in a larger publication,” says photographer Brooks Kraft, a long-time contributor to TIME. “If TIME Magazine publishes double page spreads from an important story, the photographer should make more then $650.”

Letter from NPPA, ASMP to Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc.

Letter from NPPA, ASMP to Norman Pearlstine, Time Inc.

The contract also contains a work-for-hire agreement that would grant Time Inc. the copyright to all video shot on assignment and to works produced in Time studios. Photographer Brendan Hoffman, a member of the Prime Collective, says he and other members are discussing how to respond to the contract demands. “In particular, we’re concerned about the lack of reuse fees, limits on space rates, and the rights grab on cover photos and video projects. The modest bump in the day rate does not compensate for the other losses.”

The new contract terms take effect January 1, 2016. In a letter dated November 2, Norm Pearlstine, executive vice president and chief content officer of Time Inc., told photographers, “The new policy means that all Time Inc brands will seek specified rights from photographers to re-use, at pre-agreed rates, photography that has been commissioned by any Time Inc brand in the US, with any additional permissions cleared by Time Inc.” The contract covers Time Inc.’s 90 magazines and brands including TIME, PEOPLE, InStyle, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, Real Simple and Food & Wine, and affiliated titles like TIME for Kids and TIME-branded books.

Photographer John Harrington analyzed the contract’s terms point by point in a blog post titled “Time’s Failed Attempt at Fairness and Equity.” About the new day rate, he noted that if the editorial day rate paid in 1980 had been adjusted to keep pace with inflation, it would now be over $1000.

On November 24, Mickey Osterreicher of National Press Photographers Association and Thomas Kennedy of American Society of Media Photographers sent an open letter to Pearlstine objecting to “draconian terms and conditions you impose on contractors.” On behalf of their organizations as well as American Photographic Artists, Professional Photographers of America and Digital Media Licensing Association, Osterreicher and Kennedy asked Pearlstine to “enter into meaningful discussion with the photographic community to revise and create a fair agreement.”

Update: After we published an earlier version of this story, we were contacted by Time Inc’s vice president, corporate communications, who sent us a statement. We have published it. See “Time Inc Responds to PDN Article on Resistance to Time Inc’s Contract.”

Photographers who have not returned a signed contract have continued to receive automated emails with the contract; one photographer has received it twice, another five times. But so far, many are ignoring it, or waiting to see if Time is wiling to negotiate fairer terms. “I believe that any photographer who would consider accepting these terms must have little understanding of this industry and will surely regret it later on in their career,” says photographer Henry Leutwyler. “Hopefully, photographers will stick together and not only think for themselves but for each other and most importantly for the budding photographers of tomorrow. If the contract does indeed go through, it might be a good time to consider ditching the party and going fishing.”

Related Articles
Time Inc. UK Issues Rights-Grabbing Contracts (2014)

PhotoPlus 2015: The State of Editorial Photography

7 Tips for Getting Clients To Pay What You’re Worth

Tags: , , , , , ,

10 Responses to “Photographers, Reps Push Back on Time Inc Contract’s Rights Grab (Update)”

  1. karen kuehn Says:

    Greedy Corporate behavior. Shame on you all. Photographers rates have not really changed since the 80s Its about time to really respect the value of the vender’s who are sent out and not covered by the umbrella of TL insurances to perform their jobs. Intellectual property of the photographer for onetime North American Rights print on paper for a day rate is fine. Payment for all usages should be a given. Web should be another day rate for one year use chump change. It sickens me to see this even from afar. I put in decades of work for many TL magazines. I feel for the photography editors who have to present these contracts through their teeth biting. It’s just wrong. Do the right thing TL executives. Please pay if forward. The photographers do.

  2. gregorylent Says:

    time doesn’t care .. they can pull iphone images off of instagram

  3. Henri Allard Says:

    Maybe the photography business should have its own version of Anonymous where anyone shooting for any Time publications after Jan 1 get their website hacked and get outed and shamed as contributing to the demise of photography. There’s always some snake that sees these things as their opportunity to call a photo editor to let them know they’ll happily work for the new rates in order to get their break and try to hijack everyone else who already contributes and is fighting to at least keep the current standards from falling even farther.

  4. Jimmy Owa Says:

    Its a F’d up contract, but what are these photogs to do?

    Work for Getty? Yea right.

    Work for NY Times? F That.

    Work for AP? Oh wait, all these companies have worse contracts than this Time Inc contract will put out.

    I understand this pissed off response but Time inc had a very nice deal for their photogs until December 31, 2015. It was a matter of time before something like this contract was going to come out.

    And as Henri Allard puts it so eloquently, theres always a young upcomer who’ll happily take your work if you don’t want it.

    Time Inc does NOT care. So, F**K Them.

  5. KenIsNotMyName Says:

    Yup. They don’t care. Their stock is sucking. You think the head guys care about the photographers??

    And by the way, all you photographers complaining about this contract, don’t some of you already work for the companies that have similar contracts?

  6. Dan Mil Says:

    Yes, its all Time Inc’s fault. Not AP, Getty, NY Times, etc…. or many many many other companies having the same type of contract and paying less. Is it sad that Time Inc would give out a contract like this? Yes.

    Do they care?


    I also know that some of the sports photographers sent emails to the photo staff at SI. Good luck with that too. The current DOP of SI wouldn’t stick up for any of the photographers even if his balls were jammed into the lid of my Pelican roller.

  7. grant Says:

    It’s actually our fault for letting them dictate these terms. A simple collective “no” and they would be in a very tight spot.

  8. chris Says:

    Any artist that signs this agreement will be very very sorry. I take assignments from Time Inc. because I love the work, not for the money, who would it pays terribly already. But with this new contract, a photographer could get sued by a subject for something Time inc does to a photograph. Time’s contract gives them the right to manipulate the photo any way they want. Imagine, you take a photo of a great celeb and they swap bodies and location, change the lighting and mood and paste your name on it. And then they say they aren’t going to pay you because they don’t like the photos you made. Screw this contract. I will never sign it as it is. Ha, I never signed the last one, yet they still asked me to shoot. If you have great work and they want it in their magazines they will pay. Nobody should sign this contract.

  9. grant Says:

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the Meredith contracts? They take copyright ownership and have broad reuse rights, I believe.

  10. chris Says:


    December, 2015
    2016 Time Inc. Commissioned Photographer Agreement
    In this memo, Time Inc. clarifies certain terms of the 2016 Time Inc. Commissioned Photographer Agreement.
    Time Inc. provides this list for photographers who have received and signed the 2016 Time Inc. Commissioned
    Photographer Agreement to rely on in interpreting this Agreement.
    · Time Inc. will continue its current practice of paying photographers who are paid personally within 25 days and
    companies (including LLCs) within 60 days.
    · Time Inc. will continue its current practice of paying photographers after delivery of photos following a
    commissioned photo shoot, even if a story is cancelled or the photos aren’t published.
    · The Time Inc. agreement will not change the current practice of paying negotiated per photo usage rates by
    People and InStyle foreign licensed editions (magazines published by companies other than Time Inc. in a foreign country
    under a license from People and InStyle, almost always under the People and InStyle brand names). Time Inc. has
    simplified the space rate schedule for other brands’ foreign licensed editions that currently pay space rates (such as
    TIME, Time for Kids, Fortune, Golf, and Sports Illustrated) and these rates continue to be based on the circulation of
    these foreign licensed editions. The Affluent Media Group publications (Food & Wine and Travel + Leisure) would
    continue not to pay additional space rates for any foreign licensed editions.
    Promotional Use
    · Time Inc. will continue to allow photographers to use and post published photos and published cover photos for
    self-promotion upon and after first publication.
    · Time Inc. typically will use published photos to promote its brands (use of outtakes for promotion would be rare
    and if photo subjects are people, Time Inc. would have to clear subject rights).
    Photographer Reuse of Photos for Fees
    · Photographers may monetize (license photo use to others for fees) published cover photos (the photo without the
    Time Inc. brand and other content), with Time Inc. brand permission, after the embargo period. Time Inc. anticipates
    that brands that have given permission in the past will continue to do so in the future. Photographers do not need
    permission to monetize almost all other photos, published and unpublished, after the embargo period.
    · The embargo period ends 90 days after first publication for almost all photos (published and unpublished). In rare
    instances, a longer period of time may be specified by the assigning brand in an assignment, which the photographer is
    free to decline.
    · If the Time Inc. assigning brand hasn’t published any photos from a shoot within 12 months after the last photo
    delivery date, the assigning brand will take the photos off embargo so that the photographer can monetize them.
    Time Inc. Reuse of Photos
    · Time Inc. will continue to allow third parties, such as other platform providers, to use almost all photos only in and
    as part of our branded content. The only exceptions will be Sports Illustrated, which will continue its current practice of
    sharing syndication revenue 50/50 with photographers for individual photos that are licensed without the SI brand and
    SI content, and limited product shot assignments that would be identified in advance to photographers in an assignment
    email and that photographers are free to decline (see below).
    · Affiliated brands will contact photographers before first Time Inc. affiliated brand use of their photos (so that
    photographers or their agents will know that their photo is being reused, and can inform the affiliated brand of a prior
    reuse by another company). For photo subjects who agree to appear for a photo shoot only in an assigning brand
    publication, we expect photographers to continue the current practice of informing Time Inc. of reuse restriction
    requests and our brands to continue to approve where appropriate. If a photo subject has restricted use of images to
    the assigning brand, any of our affiliated brands would have to clear any proposed affiliated brand reuses with a photo
    Subject, Sports, & Other Clearances
    · Time Inc. will continue its current practice of being responsible for clearing any and all necessary subject, league,
    trademark, music, and other similar clearances. We expect that photographers will continue to inform Time Inc. of any
    requested subject or other reuse restrictions and that the brands will continue to approve them where appropriate.
    Sports Illustrated will continue to allow its photographers to sign for credentials.
    · For highly sensitive photojournalism, such as photos documenting war, death, illness, or crime victims, the
    assigning brand will exercise its discretion in granting affiliated brands access to the photographs only for use in news
    reports and commentary.
    Commissioned Photos – Selects & Outtakes
    · Time Inc. brands have differed in their practices with respect to the delivery of commissioned photos and
    outtakes. Time Inc. anticipates that photographers will continue to deliver edited selects in accordance with each
    assigning brand’s custom and practice and to provide additional photos upon reasonable request of the assigning
    · Time Inc. will not be “merchandizing” photos – no photos on coffee mugs or coasters, for example – without
    permission of photographers and subjects.
    Videos, Branded Idea House Projects, Products Shot in Time Inc. Studios
    · Time Inc. has long had broader exclusive rights to videos, “Idea House” Project photos, and product shots assigned
    by and shot in the Time Inc. Photo Studio than to other commissioned photos, and these limited exceptions would
    continue under the new Agreement. Photographers are free to decline these types of assignments.
    · For editorial photo shoot videos, photographers have the right to negotiate an additional video fee, on top
    of the photo shoot day rate, to be specified in an assignment email sent to photographers. Photographers also
    could decline the video assignment and accept only the related photo shoot assignment.
    · For “Idea Houses” assignments, which are photo shoots of houses, and their furnishings, displayed under
    the Southern Living, Coastal Living, Sunset, and other Time Inc. brands, photographers have the right to
    negotiate an acceptable fee, instead of the day rate, to be specified in an assignment email or to decline the
    · Photographers also may decline assignments by the Time Inc. Photo Studio, the Time Inc. Food Studio, The
    Drive photo studio, or other Time Inc.-owned and operated studios, for photo shoots in those studios, if
    photographers do not want to grant broader rights to those photos in return for payment at the day rate.