In the clash of two titans, we mere mortals just sit back and watch. This weekend, Taylor Swift published an open letter to Apple in response to their new Apple Music Streaming service where they were offering a 3-month free trial as a promotion. They would not be paying royalties to the artists in that time period.
In a post on her Tumblr, Swift promptly responded, threatening to pull her platinum album, “1989” from the new service due to the policy which Swift called, “shocking, disappointing and completely unlike this historically progressive company.” She further stated, “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Swift was not speaking for herself, but for new artists that “has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success.” This morning, Apple agreed to change their policy due to Swift’s letter and now will indeed pay artists for using their music during the trial period.
Hmm, sound familiar, photographers? I thought so too, when I first read the headlines this morning. It’s a battle that we photographers face daily. And it struck a cord with one freelance photographer as well. In his own open letter, this one directed to Swift, photographer Jason Shelton calls out Swift’s own unfair image licensing policy and accuses the singer of her hypocritical stance against Apple when she herself is exploiting photographers due to her company’s policy.
Sheldon posted a copy of Firefly Entertainment’s (Swift’s label) contract authorization form (in his blog post here) that those photographing Swift are required to sign. He points out that, in the contract, the photographer’s photographs can only be licensed once to a single publication and that Firefly would also retain the rights to the photo. He explains to Business Insider, that he is asked to photograph events such as concerts for publication, but only get paid if the photos are used. So, sometimes, he works, but the newspaper doesn’t end up using his images and he, therefore, is unable to sell them to another organziation. Sheldon ends his letter by asking Swift,
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.
With all due respect to you too Taylor, you can do the right thing and change your photo policy. Photographers don’t ask for your music for free. Please don’t ask us to provide you with your marketing material for free.
There are a few points up for discussion here: Swift and her stance against Apple, as the representative for other artists and Sheldon and his stance, calling Swift a hypocrite for her own image usage policy. Also, something to consider, if the photographer agrees to a contract with a publication, knowing the terms of the publication, is this even an issue that regards Swift? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.