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July 22nd, 2015

The Photographer Who Rocked Taylor Swift: Open Letter Helped to Expose “Hideous Terms” Concert Photogs Face

sheldonheadshot

There’s a neat symmetry to the Taylor Swift photo contract saga. It all began with an open letter, penned by UK concert photographer Jason Sheldon on his Junction10 blog, lambasting Swift for exploitative contract terms for her 1989 World Tour.

Sheldon’s open letter was sparked by Swift’s own public scolding of Apple for not paying artists during the three month free trial period of Apple music. And while Swift’s letter provoked a quick (or is that swift?) mea-culpa and an about-face from Apple, Sheldon’s appeal drew force more gradually from repeated media mentions, protests from news organizations and criticism from the National Press Photographer’s Association.

Shortly after the news broke that Swift’s team had altered its contract to appease critics, PDN reached out to Sheldon via email for his thoughts on the affair. What follows is an edited transcript.

PDN:  I’m wondering if you had any comment regarding the changes [Swift’s] team has made – do they go some (or all) of the way toward addressing your complaints?

Jason Sheldon: I’ve not had chance to examine the revised contract in detail – had a quick look and it appears to be a very positive step in the right direction. I think there are some minor points which I’d be happier tightening up, but I’m happy they’ve shown willingness to appreciate our rights a bit more.

PDN:  Are you surprised that your open letter has had the reaction and impact that it did?

Sheldon: I’m certainly pleasantly surprised it went viral.. It was good to have the support of publications like the Irish Times as well, who picked up on it and refused to agree to the terms of the contract.  It’s helped expose the hideous terms music photographers are sometimes forced to agree to (under economic duress) in order to carry out their jobs, and that is what it is – a job.

PDN:  Have you experienced any negative reaction (loss of work) from concert promoters or management teams because of your open criticism? 

Sheldon: Generally the feedback has been extremely positive on the whole. With various PR [reps] and promoters saying publicly that they agree with me – a few saying it privately as well. Of course, there has been some negative feedback which is to be expected, but most of it seems to come from people who have not read and understood the point of the open letter. These are usually the people that think we’re getting free concert tickets and living a parasitic existence off the back of the artist talent, which is certainly not the case. I haven’t lost any work from my stance, yet. But then, I’ve yet to apply for the Foo Fighters shows later this year.
July 21st, 2015

Taylor Swift Changes Photo Contract in Response to Online Outrage. Will the Foo Follow?

Jana Beamer | Flickr

Jana Beamer | Flickr

Evidently Taylor Swift doesn’t want there to be any bad blood between her 1989 World Tour and photographers. After an outpouring of internet outrage over her tour’s restrictive photo contract, Swift’s team has apparently relented.

Writing for Poytner, Benjamin Mullin notes that Swift’s team has removed elements that photographers had found objectionable:

According to a source who has seen the revised contract, Swift’s representatives are no longer empowered to forcibly remove images from the cameras of photojournalists. In addition, a stricture preventing photojournalists from using images taken at Swift’s concerts more than once has been loosened, allowing for some negotiation. And Swift’s representatives have agreed to credit photojournalists when the artist uses their photos.

Mashable has gotten a hold of the new contract and republished it here.

The changes were spurred by UK concert photographer Jason Sheldon and later by Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National  Press Photographer’s Association, who has been speaking out against Swift’s contract since Sheldon’s open letter to Swift went viral.

Swift is not the only high-profile musician under fire for restrictive contracts.

The Washington City Paper refused to send a photographer to the Foo Fighters’s concert after writing that the Foo’s contract “sucked.” Instead, they commissioned a cartoonist to draw the band during the show. A Quebec paper, Le Soleil, followed suit.

Related: One Simple Way to Kill Restrictive Concert Photography Contracts

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 23rd, 2015

Court Rejects Rentmeester’s Infringement Claim Over Nike “Jumpman” Logo

© Jacobus "Co" Rentmeester

Rentmeester’s 1984 photograph of Michael Jordan for Life magazine. © Jacobus “Co” Rentmeester

A federal court in Portland, Oregon has dismissed photographer Jacobus “Co” Rentmeester’s copyright infringement claim against Nike for the same reason so many “copycat” infringement claims fail: Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas, only the expression of those ideas. And Nike’s expression was not “substantially similar” to Rentmeester’s, the court ruled.

“Mr. Rentmeester has failed to show that he can satisfy the requisite objective test for copyright infringement,” US District Judge Michael W. Mosman wrote in his decision last week to dismiss the case. Rentmeester has filed papers announcing his intent to appeal the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (more…)

June 18th, 2015

How Well Do Imaging & Cloud Companies Protect Your Privacy?

You invest more than just your photos when you use services like Dropbox or Adobe’s Creative Cloud. Sensitive data, such as your location, private communications and more, gets transmitted to third party servers every day.

Every year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation surveys key tech firms to judge just how diligently they safeguard your privacy. Companies are judged across five criteria: whether they follow industry-accepted best practices when it comes to privacy protection (i.e. do they require a warrant before handing over communications), whether they tell users about government data demands, whether they disclose policies on data retention, whether they discloses government content removal requests and whether they have a “pro-user” policy of no “backdoors” to allow government surveillance.

This year, several firms used heavily by the photo community earned five stars–a perfect score. Among them were Adobe, Apple, Dropbox, Yahoo! and WordPress.

Social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest didn’t fare as well though they still beat out Google, which is aggressively courting photographers with its new Google Photos storage service.

You can read the full report here or get the nickel version from the EFF’s graphic below.

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 5.53.51 PM

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.

May 19th, 2015

New App Saves Your Video Even If Police Try To Delete It

MOBILEJUSTICE-ACLU
A new app promises to help citizen journalists record police actions.

Mobile Justice CA, a new mobile app from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, allows users to automatically send recordings of police activity to the ACLU. By using the app, citizens who record incidents involving police are assured that their videos will survive even if police seize their mobile devices.

The app, which is available via the Apple App Store and Google Play, may come in handy for photographers and journalists working in California. Versions of the app also exist for Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York and Oregon. Video by users of the Mobile Justice CA app in other states will still be sent to the ACLU of California, who will forward that video to local ACLU offices if the video depicts a civil rights issue.

In addition to sending a copy of a user’s video directly to the ACLU, the app saves the video to the camera roll of the user. It also prompts the user to fill out an incident report that will help the ACLU catalogue and sort the videos they receive.

On the website announcing the app, writer and activist Griffith Fuller, Jr., explains the need for it. He recalls an incident when he was detained and searched without cause by a cop in West Hollywood, California. Fuller recorded the encounter, but after the cop handcuffed Fuller and put him in his car, he “picked up my phone, which was still recording, and deleted the video from the ‘Camera Roll’ folder as well as the copy in the backup ‘Recently Deleted’ folder,” Fuller writes.

Other features include a “Witness” function, which informs users if others are using the app to record incidents at nearby locations. Information about the rights of citizens is also included in the app features. The app will also send the user push notifications with announcements and information from the ACLU.

Related: Federal Judge Sanctions City of Atlanta for Continuing to Violate Photographers’ Rights
L.A. Pays $50k to Harassed Photogs, Agrees to Train Sheriff’s Deputies

May 14th, 2015

Federal Judge Sanctions City of Atlanta for Continuing to Violate Photographers’ Rights

In the wake of recent violations of news photographers’ rights by Atlanta police, a US federal court judge has held the City of Atlanta in contempt of a 2012 court order to reduce interference with citizens documenting police activity.

US District court judge Steve Jones handed down the civil contempt ruling against the city yesterday, and imposed sanctions intended to force compliance with the 2012 order and “address future monitoring of [Atlanta’s] compliance with the order.” (more…)

April 10th, 2015

Arne Svenson Exonerated on Appeal in Privacy Invasion Case

From Arne Svenson's series "The Neighbors" ©Arne Svenson

From Arne Svenson’s series “The Neighbors” ©Arne Svenson

A New York State appeals court court has upheld a lower court ruling that rejected privacy invasion claims against fine-art photographer Arne Svenson. But the court has also challenged the New York state legislature to consider legislation to prohibit what Svenson did: photograph his neighbors inside their apartments through their un-curtained windows.

Svenson was sued by Martha and Matthew Foster in 2013 for using a telephoto lens to photograph them and other neighbors through the windows of their apartments, then displaying the images in art galleries for sale as fine-art prints.

The invasion of privacy committed by Svenson was not actionable, state appeals court judge Dianne T. Renwick wrote in a unanimous decision handed down yesterday, “because [Svenson’s] use of the images in question constituted art work and thus is not deemed ‘use for advertising or trade purposes,’ within the meaning of the statute.” (more…)