Taylor Swift may have helped out a lot of indie musicians when she called out Apple Music for their unfair payment policy, but she’s definitely not winning any friends in the photography world.
Following Swift’s coup in which she wrote an open letter explaining how “disappointing” it was the music streaming service would not pay artists and songwriters during its free trial period, freelance photographer Jason Sheldon penned an essay of his own highlighting the “Bad Blood” songstress’ own hypocrisy when it came to compensating photojournalists.
In Sheldon’s letter shared on his own blog Monday, he alleged that the agreement professional photographers must sign before Swift’s shows made it impossible for them to make money off their work. While sharing a scanned contract from the singer’s 2011 tour, Sheldon noted that though photographers are prohibited to license their photos to more than one publication, Swift and her team, Firefly Entertainment, Inc., have the rights to use any photos taken from the venue — including in any and all ventures that will promote and further Swift’s own brand.
Certain parts of the contract read:
The photographs may be used on a one-time only basis for news or information purposes within the body of related text of the publications entitled [x], and shall not be (a) duplicated or reprinted in any other publications, (b) republished in the same Publication or Published in any other edition of such Publication without the Artist’s written consent
Subject to the written consent of the Publication as to any specific future use, FEI shall have the perpetual, worldwide right to use (and to otherwise others to use) any or all of the Photographs for any non-commercial purpose (in all media and formats), including but not limited to publicity and promotion.
Sheldon wrote that these restrictions make it hard for freelance photojournalists, who are compensated only “if and when the photos are used,” to find another way to be paid for their time and work. He also noted that it’s unfair photographers have been barred from using any pictures taken in their personal portfolios.
Now.. forgive me if I’m wrong, but if you take points 2 and 3 in that contract (which is provided to Photographers who need to agree to those terms before they are allowed to do their job in photographing you for editorial outlets), it appears to be a complete rights grab, and demands that you are granted free and unlimited use of our work, worldwide, in perpetuity. You say in your letter to Apple that “Three months is a long time to go unpaid”. But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity….
How are you any different to Apple? If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great.. make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support. But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?
Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.
After Sheldon’s letter went viral online, a rep for Swift told Business Insider that the agreement he was referencing to was “misrepresented.”
The spokesperson said the waiver “clearly states that any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval” and that the “agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer. Every artist has the right to and should protect the use of their name and likeness.”
In defense, Sheldon tweeted:
For the record, I never claimed they take our copyright. Just the right to use and give our images away worldwide in perpetuity, just as bad
— Jason Sheldon (@Junction10) June 22, 2015
If you have a contentious contract that you present to people, yet say that it's amendable for anyone that objects to certain parts of it…
— Jason Sheldon (@Junction10) June 23, 2015
then you're clearly aware that it's not a fair contract and if it IS amendable, then there is no point having it in the first place.
— Jason Sheldon (@Junction10) June 23, 2015
To make matter worse, this was actually not the first time someone dragged Swift for using professional photos without credit.
Most recently, the singer shared a photo of herself during her Louisville, Ky. show without crediting the actual photographer. The picture received more than a million likes on Instagram.
— Josh Johnson (@TheKenGent) June 3, 2015
.@taylorswift13 do you understand where I'm coming from? Hope so.
— Josh Johnson (@TheKenGent) June 4, 2015