A commerical photographer accuses Taylor Swift of being a hypocrite, Swift's management company responds
In case you missed it, Taylor Swift, one of the most successful commercial pop stars of all time, recently penned an angry Tumblr post aimed at the soon-to-be-launched streaming service Apple Music. Her post was in reference to the launch of the service, which she said would take advantage of recording artists, especially up-and-comers.
When Apple Music launches on June 30th, users will be able to sign up for a three month free trial. The flip side, and what has compelled Swift to react, is the fact that recording artists whose music is being streamed will not be compensated for any 'plays' of their songs during this trial period.
Within 24 hours of Swift announcing her disappointment with Apple and threatening to yank her latest album, 1989, from the streaming service, Apple reversed its decision. They'll still offer a free three month trial of the service to users, but they'll also compensate the artists.
So what in the world does this have to do with photography? More than you might think. The same day Swift's post went live, photographer Jason Sheldon published a blog post of his own titled An Open Response to Taylor Swift's Rant Against Apple. The post explains that during Swift's most recent tour, photographers were expected to sign contracts allowing them to publish their images only once and granting the physical rights of their images to the entertainment company behind the tour. In light of Swift's appeal for the rights of creatives, Sheldon argues that this contract is more than a bit hypocritical.
Within a few days, Taylor Swift and co. fired back that he was misrepresenting the contract in question. According to one of Swift's representatives, photographers can still publish images of Taylor Swift after initial publication but must first seek the approval of her management company. The same representative also clarified that the contract does not give the management company rights to the images, and that the photographer does in fact keep them.
So it seems that Swift's contract doesn't go quite as far as Sheldon initially implied, but it and many others like it are still a cause for concern among photographers who shoot concerts. A music photographer's livelihood can depend on being able to use their images from a concert like this in a portfolio, and contracts of this kind make it at best difficult and at worst, legally impossible to do so. Yet, the artist's management is free to use the photographer's work for promotion and marketing.
Music photographers are no strangers to this kind of contract. Whether the terms are ever actually enforced is another matter, but the legal advice given to one of our own staffers on the matter was along the lines of 'If you sign it, it's enforceable.'
Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how this back-and-forth between Taylor Swift and the photography community plays out, and whether it could end up benefiting music photographers in any way.
Update: Jason Sheldon has published a response to Taylor Swift's agent, read it here.
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