Music photographers rebel over 'rights grabbing' contracts
|Ian Brown of the Stone Roses, pictured at a solo concert in the UK in 2005 (Barney Britton)|
According to a report in The British Journal of Photography, press photographers in the UK are being called on to boycot the high-profile reunion tour of 80s/90s rock band The Stone Roses over the conditions of contracts handed out at recent shows. According to the report, the National Union of Journalists is backing the boycott over conditions in the shooting contracts that appear to remove the right of the signee to sell their images for editorial use.
Among other conditions the contracts require photographers to agree 'to assign to the Group, with full title guarantee, all Rights in perpetuity throughout the world so as to enable us to exploit the Photographs and Rights as we deem fit without further reference or payment to you or any third party'. Photographers are also asked to agree 'to provide [the Stone Roses] with digital copies of any or all of the Photographs upon request'. For photographers that shoot for agencies, where a third party handles image sales, the conditions of a contract like this aren't simply objectionable - they're utterly impossible to assent to.
As a former music photographer in the UK, for several years, I've seen countless contracts of this kind. US-based music photographer Walter Rowe maintains a list of some representative examples here (please note that Rowe's opinions on this matter, and those of the musicphotographers.net community, are somewhat colorful).
From memory, the worst shooting contract I was ever given to sign asked me to agree to give away the rights to all of my images, in perpetuity, on provision of 'remuneration' from the band - a pound coin. The contract was given to me by a junior member of staff at the venue (unconnected with the band) at the stage door, minutes before showtime. I gave the paperwork back and went home, resisting the temptation as I left to ask for the pound to cover my bus fare. Like a lot of photographers operating today I worked as a freelancer for a major photo agency on a royalties basis, so going home with no pictures meant no income.
There is a fairly widely-held (and false) belief among music photographers that contracts like the one issued by the Stone Roses could never be enforced legally, and as such, their attitude is 'sign and be damned'. But it's a risk, and a risk that some photographers, it seems, are tired of taking. In my opinion, they shouldn't have to.
Read the full story at The British Journal of Photography
Barnaby Britton is Reviews Editor of dpreview.com and a former professional music photographer. You can see a selection of his after-hours work, past and present, at www.photoinsensitive.com.