When we published our story “What Lawyers See When They Look at Editorial Photography Contracts” in the June issue of PDN, we asked readers to tell us about editorial contracts they feel are unfair to photographers. We received a copy of a “Vice Media Photographer Agreement” that a Vice website sent to a photographer earlier this year.
One of the properties owned by Vice Media LLC—which include Vice magazine, Broadly, Motherboard, Vice Video and Vice Sports, among others—was attempting to license existing images from the photographer, offering a minuscule fee for the following rights:
Photographer grants, transfers and assigns to Vice, its agents, assigns [sic], licensees and successors, in perpetuity for the entire world, all of Photographer’s rights, title and interest in and to the Photographs, including any copyright in the Photographs, and without limitation, the perpetual right make reproductions of the Photographs in any form or media now known or hereinafter created, forever and throughout the world (the “Usage”). Photographer hereby acknowledges that Vice is and will be the sole owner of all rights in and to the Photographs and any reproductions thereof.
Not only did the media company—recently valued at more than $4 billion—want all of the rights to the photographer’s images, they also wanted the photographer to indemnify Vice Media LLC from any legal action that might result from the use of the images:
Photographer hereby expressly releases and indemnifies Vice, its agents, assigns, employees, licensees and successors from and against any and all claims, liabilities, demands, actions, causes of action, cost and expenses, whether at law or in equity, which a third party may have or may in the future have for invasion of privacy, commercial exploitation, false light, copyright or trademark infringement, libel, defamation, or any other cause of action arising out of the exploitation of the Photographs or any part thereof or by reason of Photographer’s breach of any representations, warranties or agreements contained herein. Photographer acknowledges that Vice is relying upon the rights granted to it hereunder in entering into this Agreement.
In “What Lawyers See When They Look at Editorial Photography Contracts,” attorney Carolyn E. Wright noted that by signing indemnity clauses like this, “the photographer must pay for the loss the company incurs, either directly or through reimbursement.” She added that publishing companies rarely come after photographers for legal costs. “Nevertheless, photographers should accept these terms only when willing to accept the consequences.”
After Vice representatives failed to answer the photographer’s questions about the contract, the photographer consulted with a peer, and then chose not to sign the agreement.
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