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July 9th, 2015

How to Kill Restrictive Concert Photography Contracts

Gabbo T | Flickr

Gabbo T | Flickr

It’s boom times for concert photographers who want to complain about the terms of their contract. Jason Seldon’s public letter to Taylor Swift drew huge interest from traditional media companies, followed by the public calling out of the Foo Fighters by the Washington City Paper.

But, like a lot of online griping, the spilling of rage pixels rarely results in change.

Writing in his blog, the Norwegian photographer Jarle Moe argues that concert photographers wouldn’t be on the receiving end of unfair or overly restrictive contracts if they stopped thinking of themselves as concert photographers:

“If more, if not all, concert photographers identified as journalists and with the ethics that follow in their work, photo contracts would be a thing of the past. Signing a photo contract should be unacceptable, not because it’s disrespecting you as an artist, but because it’s a violation of the ethics you follow as a journalist.

So stop thinking about yourself primarily as an artist. You are a [photo]journalist. You may create art, but it’s more to it than that. You are a part of the freepress. Encourage new photographers to identify as journalists. Make the journalism be as natural to our profession as the artistry, and heed to the obligations that come with that label.”

Sound naive? According to Moe, Norwegian concert photographers banded together under a similar ethos:

“The Norwegian press as a whole, has made a joint statement to never sign any contracts put forward by artists or their management pushed forward by concert photographers, as can be read here. In Norway, most concert photographers are, in essence, photojournalists and identify more or less as such. And because of that, we are part of the press. We are not 100 concert photographers, but 7000 journalists.

Together we have a powerful voice. We generally do not meet any photo contracts, and the few we do, never gets signed. And because of that, contracts get fewer and fewer. With the press associations and unions behind us, we actually have a powerful voice against such demands, and the contracts get dropped (though, it has to be said that the local promoters have done tremendous work as well in that regard, but without all of the press acting like a collective, they would have no incentive to waiver the contracts). The aforementioned Foo Fighters contract? Guess what: that was not presented to the photographers in Norway. I can’t even remember the last time I “had” to sign a contract. That’s what having some integrity gets you.”

Sounds like an interesting strategy, but is it workable in a market as large and competitive as the U.S.?

July 6th, 2015

Not Just Tay Tay: Foo Fighters Called Out by Washington City Paper Over Contract Terms

A photo posted by Foo Fighters (@foofighters) on

Taylor Swift isn’t the only big-time musician to be called out for a restrictive photo contract. On July 2, the Washington City Paper took the Foo Fighters to task over a contract that they said “sucks.”

They wrote:

If we signed it, we would have agreed to: the band approving the photos which run in the City Paper; only running the photos once and with only one article; and all copyrights would transfer to the band. Then, here’s the fun part, the band would have “the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations” without any approval or payment or consideration for the photographer.

That is exploitation of photographers, pure and simple.

The paper’s editors say they protested the terms, only to be told by the Foo Fighters’ management that they were standard and that they “protect the band” — which is more or less the same response from the Taylor Swift camp after her contract came under fire.

Will publicly airing and criticizing the terms of a contract force a change? It’s too soon to tell, but we’re just one more story away from a bona-fide trend.

June 24th, 2015

Uber for Drones: Fly4Me Connects Pilots with Clients

A photo posted by fly4.me (@fly4.me) on

For all the popularity of drones, they’re far from a mass market product. Many users, even many photographers, may be leery of sending a flying robot into the air, lest it wind up on the White House lawn or on someone’s face.

That’s where Fly4Me comes in. It’s a new service that promises to link trained drone operators with paying clients–kind of like Uber for drones.

Drone owners use Fly4Me to create personalized profiles and bid on drone-related job offers, including aerial mapping, disaster surveillance but also photography and videography. Operators bring their own drone and get to keep 80 percent of any money earned. Any drone owner that wants to create a profile on Fly4Me has to undergo a safety certification process by the company first.

Fly4Me’s co-founder Adam Kersnoski told PDN that the company had obtained its 333 exemption from the FAA allowing commercial drone operations and that drone pilots using the service would be covered under that exemption.

The current exemption restricts the service to only using drone operators that fly a DJI Phantom 2, however Kersnoski told us the company’s lawyers were “already in the process of modifying [the FAA exemption] to exclude this restriction and add additional platforms.”

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Fly4Me is based in Boston and is signing up drone operators throughout the country.

The company is planning to offer some interesting technology to customers who hire operators through the platform, including the ability to view flight results uploaded by the pilot, live-streaming from a drone’s camera, private communication between pilot and customer during flight and the ability for customers to select flight locations by pointing a pin on Google Maps.

(Lead image from left to right: Adam Kersnowski, co-founder; David Amatuni, designer; Dmitry Sharshunskiy, co-founder; Karina Dodor, attorney.)

June 22nd, 2015

Photographer Calls Out Taylor Swift for Apple Hypocrisy [Updated]

Taylor Swift is rapidly making a name for herself as the scourge of streaming music services, first lambasting Spotify and now, Apple Music, for giving musicians short financial shrift. In an open letter to Apple, Swift complains that the company won’t be paying musicians during a user’s three month free trial period with the service, calling it “shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.”

But Swift’s ride atop the high horse may not last very long, and not simply because Apple appears to have done an abrupt about-face on the issue.

Photographer Jason Seldon read the fine print in the contract provided by Firefly Entertainment, Inc. (Swift’s management company) to freelance concert photographers and deemed it “a complete rights grab.”

Specifically, Seldon objected to two clauses:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 9.05.26 AM

 

Writes Seldon:

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?

Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.

Seldon wasn’t the only photographer to cry foul.

 

Update: The BBC got a hold of Swift’s management, who defended their policy thusly:

“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.

“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.

“Every artist has the right to, and should, protect the use of their name and likeness.”

June 2nd, 2015

Steve McCurry Employee Arrested, Charged With Stealing $650K From Photographer

An employee of Magnum photographer Steve McCurry has been arrested and accused of stealing and selling prints, books and other items worth more than $654,358. The District Attorney’s Office of Chester County, PA, where McCurry’s studio is located, made the announcement this afternoon.

The employee, Bree DeStephano, age 32, who was McCurry’s print sales manager, “casually abused her position of trust to make some easy money, without a thought to the damage to Mr. McCurry,” said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan in a statement.

DeStephano allegedly stole 50 prints worth $628,000 between May 2012 and November 2013, and worked with a co-conspirator, Brandon Donahue, to sell the stolen prints. Donohue was the manager of Durango, Colorado gallery Open Shutter. DeStephano falsified McCurry’s print inventory records to cover up the illicit sales.

DeStephano is also accused of selling 233 of McCurry’s books and other items online, the value of which is more than $23,000.

Bail for DeStephano was set at $250,000. Donahue will be charged in Colorado, the statement said.

April 28th, 2015

U.S. Copyright Office (Once Again) Studying Copyright Struggles of Photographers

The U.S. Copyright Office has published a call for comments from photographers and visual artists about how their works are “monetized, enforced and registered” and about “obstacles” artists face protecting their copyrights “when navigating the digital landscape.” The U.S. Copyright Office announced the research initiative April 24 in the Federal Register. The written comments are due by July 23.

What action, if any, the U.S. Copyright Office takes as a result of its research remains to be seen. “We just want to get an overview of the landscape,” says spokesperson Catie Rowland. “We’re just researching it, to see where it leads. There are a lot of concerns. We want to see if we can address them.” (more…)

April 8th, 2015

Pat Pope Says He Regrets Open Letter to Band, Urges Creators To “Stop Working for Free”

In what he says will be his final word on the matter, photographer Pat Pope says he regrets his public criticism of the alt rock band Garbage, but is sticking to his position that photographers shouldn’t give their work away.

Pope wrote an open letter to the band last week criticizing their management company for asking to use one of his images for free in a book project the band are working on. Garbage responded with an open letter of their own, telling Pope that the cost of self-publishing the book led them to ask photographers for free images. They also criticized Pope for making their request public.

In Pope’s “final word,” which he published on Facebook, he calls the open letter he wrote a “mistake.” He implies that “the negative comments and abuse hurled at me on the internet” make him regret the move. However, Pope doesn’t back down from the principles that inspired the letter, and he replies to some of the statements the band made in their response to his letter.

“I receive hundreds of these request a year [for free images],” Pope writes, explaining his reasoning, “as does every other photographer I know. This is the new normal, writing down a budget in which you’ll get the photographic content for free by making the photographer give it to you.”

He criticized Garbage again for their abuse of “the power relationship.” The band “paid someone at their management company to send me a pro-forma request for free usage of my work. When you receive a request like that, the power relationship is that a gigantic branded entity with huge reach and backing is asking a lone freelancer to accept that the value of their work is zero.”

Pope later claims that he’s “no ‘internet warrior,'” before urging that “all of us in the creative community have to Stop Working For Free [Pope’s emphasis].” Despite saying he regrets writing his own open letter, he urges others to do the same. “Let’s get this practice [of asking for free content] out in the open.”

Related: Photographer Openly Ridicules Band’s Request For Free Images
Band Defends Their Decision to Ask Photographer for Free Images

April 7th, 2015

Revenues for Thomas Franklin’s 9/11 Image Top $1 Million

Thomas Franklin’s iconic 9/11 photograph has generated $1 million in revenues to date, according to court papers recently filed in connection with a copyright infringement claim over the photograph. It is unclear whether Franklin has benefited financially from the famous photo.

The picture shows three firefighters raising the American flag over the site of World Trade Center after it was destroyed in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Franklin shot the image as an employee of The Bergen Record, making the photograph a work for hire. As a result, the copyright owner is North Jersey Media Group (NJMG), which owns The Bergen Record.

The revenue information was disclosed in the case of NJMG v. Jeanine Pirro and Fox News Network. NJMG had sued for copyright infringement in US District Court in New York over Fox News’s unauthorized use of the photo on a blog promoting a TV program hosted by Pirro. Fox argued unsuccessfully that its use of the image didn’t cut into NJMG’s revenues from licensing the image.

The court papers say that licensing of the photograph peaked in the period between 2002 and 2004, but has continued over time. Between January 2013 and June 2014–an 18-month period–licensing revenues totaled $10,221.71 for editorial uses of the image, and $4,698.91 for commercial uses. That averages out to revenues of less than $1,000 per month for the period. (more…)

April 6th, 2015

Band Defends Their Decision to Ask Photographer for Free Images

Alternative rock band Garbage published an open letter to portrait photographer Pat Pope on April 3, defending their decision to ask for free use of an image for their book and suggesting Pope was out of line for calling them out publicly.

On April 2, Pope published an open letter addressed to the band, criticizing their management company’s attempt to get free license to publish one of his images in a book the band plans to self-publish to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

In his letter, which was published on Facebook and picked up by websites Louder Than War and Huffington Post UK, Pope wrote: “I’m a firm believer that musicians and artists deserve to be paid for their work,” and asked the band, “When you think about artists being paid, does that include photographers?”

The band responded a day later with an open letter of their own, pointing out that they paid Pope for the shoot in 1995 (though presumably it was not a work for hire agreement), that books are expensive to publish, and that many other photographers “were happy for their images to be seen in conjunction with the telling of our story.” The band also did a little public shaming of their own, writing that they “would never publicly admonish or begrudge a fellow artist for merely asking [for them to provide services for free].” (more…)

April 3rd, 2015

Photographer Openly Ridicules Band’s Request For Free Images

Portrait photographer Pat Pope, who has worked with many top musicians during his 20-year career, has published a snarky open letter to alternative rock band Garbage criticizing their attempt to gain free use of his images for their book.

Among Pope’s pointed questions: “Do you think ‘content providers,’ whatever the hell that means, deserve to be paid for their work, or is that a special category for musicians?”

Garbage was formed in 1993 and has sold more than 17 million records worldwide. (more…)