MISSION STATEMENT - This site is dedicated to professional music photographers. Our mission is to advocate sound business practices, warn against predatory client practices, provide helpful and educational resources, and foster a sense of community. All discussions related to capturing, processing, cataloging and licensing music photographs are welcome.
Photographers are asked to sign increasingly restrictive agreements when they pick up their photo passes. Some restrict the use your photos to the specific edition of the specific publication for which you are shooting. Many go as far as transferring all rights in your photographs to the artist or management company leaving you with nothing. Any agreement that limits your use of the photographs you take is "predatory" because it contains "rights grabbing" language. In this article, I describe what red flags to look for and provide you with several examples extracted from real artist agreements. These really do exist and are getting worse every day.
Release forms for the following artists are known to have rights grabbing or restrictive language: Avril Lavigne, Beastie Boys, Cheap Trick, Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Janes Addiction, Jimmy Eat World, Jonas Brothers, Lenny Kravitz, Matchbox 20, Mike Ness, My Chemical Romance, Paula Abdul, Queens of the Stone Age, Steven Seagall, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, The Mars Volta, The White Stripes. You can see these rights grabbing contracts as attachments to another article on our site that has restricted access.
As photographers, we use license agreements as our means to make a living. We create intellectual property in the form of visual art and we license specific limited rights for others to use it. This is the basis for copyright. When you create an original work of art, you own the right to copy it (copyright). Lawyers representing artists and recording industry entities use predatory language to grab as many of your intellectual property rights as possible (usually all) without compensation. The common term applied to this practice is "rights grabbing". We see "rights grabbing" language in photography contest entry rules, concert photo pass release forms, editorial client contracts and stock photography license agreements. Some instances are worse than others.
Pro-imaging, an international web-based group of independent photographers, has constructed a Bill of Rights for Photographers that outline what they consider acceptable and unacceptable terms and conditions in photography contest rules. Some professional photographer organizations retain attorneys to review contracts from well-known publications and provide feedback to their members. One of our missions with MusicPhotographers.net is to advocate sound business practices and educate you about predatory practice
Each of the following bullets are excerpts from actual contracts and photo release forms that photographers were asked to sign before receiving their photo credentials. These examples are provided to educate you about predatory contract language. Review contracts and photo pass release forms carefully prior to signing them. This is not acceptable language unless you are being paid a large amount of money for a complete buyout by the party presenting such a contract to you.
For good and valuable consideration, receipt and sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged, upon full execution hereof, I <your name> hereby grant, transfer, convey and assign to <ARTIST> [...] all right, title and interest, throughout the universe in perpetuity, in and to the photographs to be taken by me [...] including, without limitation, the worldwide copyrights therein and thereto, and all renewals and extensions thereof.
I hereby acknowledge that you shall own all rights in the Photos, including the copyrights therein and thereto, and accordingly, I hereby grant, transfer, convey and assign to you all right, title and interest throughout the universe in perpetuity, including, without limitation, the worldwide copyrights therein and thereto (and all renewals and extensions thereof), in and to the Photos.
Photographer hereby agrees and understands that the photographs (including the negatives and all derivatives thereof) constitute 'works made for hire' [...] created for artist and that Photographer is rendering his services as an 'employee for hire' [...] and that the Artist shall be the author of the Photographs and shall own all rights [...] in and to the results and proceeds of all such services rendered [...].
This letter serves to conﬁrm that you <your name> may photograph <ARTIST> on the condition that any material arising from the photos/footage taken on <date> at <venue> is OWNED BY <ARTIST's PRODUCTION COMPANY>.
I hereby acknowledge that you shall own all rights in the Photos, including the copyrights therein and thereto, and accordingly, I hereby grant, transfer, convey and assign to you all right, title and interest throughout the universe in perpetuity, including, without limitation, the copyright (and all renewals and extensions thereof), in and to the Photos.
In consideration of the sum of One United States Dollars (U.S. $1.00) [...] you hereby sell, assign and transfer to Company all of your right, title and interest in and to all still photographs that you will take of Artist while Artist is performing music live on stage [...] including, without limitation, all of your right, title and interest in and to the worldwide copyright relating thereto, together with all rights to secure copyright, renewals, reissues, extensions of the copyright, [...].
This is only a handful of examples of predatory language used to steal your intellectual property. There also are examples where the artist does not assert ownership of the images but demands approval prior to any use other than the assignment for which the images were originally created. Some may contain language that imposes significant fines on the photographer if they violate the agreement. While this language may seem more palatable, it is equally restrictive and in my opinion equally objectionable. If an artist permits you to publish the images once, they are published. Why then demand prior approval before publishing again? In addition to assignment fees, we count on earning revenue from licensing our stock portfolio of images we have taken over the years. Demanding prior approval for all uses makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to market these images for what are otherwise legally permissible editorial, documentary and artistic purposes.
Read all photo pass release forms, license agreements, and assignment contracts carefully. Look for any language that unreasonably restricts how you may use the photographs you create or that transfers your rights to another party. Also look for language that grants anyone the right to continue using your photographs in unrestricted ways and does not compensate you fairly for those rights. This is unfair, predatory language.
© 2008 Walter Rowe. All Rights Reserved.