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.
The letter, which was picked up by music website Louder Than War and Huffington Post UK, details how the band’s management company, Big Picture Music Co., emailed Pope and asked for permission to use his images in exchange for “proper credit.”
Pope writes that Big Picture claimed that the Garbage book will be self-published, and as such the project is “financially limited.”
“I’m a firm believer that musicians and artists deserve to be paid for their work,” Pope writes. “I’ll sign any petition that’s out there supporting that concept, and even when I choose to stream rather than buy, I’m one of the fans of your band that will pay for a premium service because I think you should be paid. That’s my point of view. Is it yours? When you think about artists being paid, does that include photographers?”
Pope goes on to point out the irony that “your management company or somebody in the band” has written a budget for a book project and “written zero for photos, because that content, in their opinion, they can get for free.”
Writing and publishing an open letter is “professional suicide when it comes to ever working with you again,” Pope admits, “and probably it won’t do my reputation any good within the music industry to be seen as a troublemaker.”
It’s sad to think that he might be right. However, we’re seeing more and more photographers publicly shame companies that ask for free images, that use images without permission, or that knowingly violate the photographers’ copyrights. Perhaps we’re inching toward a day when speaking up for their rights and those of their colleagues will enhance a photographer’s reputation.
As Pope wryly notes in his postscript: “This is actually an improvement on the management of your ‘Absolute Garbage’ album where the record company just used my work without even asking.”
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