Photographers, Reps Push Back on Time Inc Contract’s Rights Grab (Update)
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.”
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.”
Time Inc. UK Issues Rights-Grabbing Contracts (2014)