Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Photographers versus Taylor Swift

After Taylor Swift won the battle with Apple to ensure that artists get to make money from their work, a photographer asked why her photographer contracts were okay, then:

“You say in your letter to Apple that ‘Three months is a long time to go unpaid,'” Sheldon writes. “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…”

He goes on to say, “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?”
Some people have been quick to defend Swift, saying it's unlikely that she's written the photographer contract. Which is true, but a person who is clearly in control of their career would at least have signed off on it.

The most egregious part of the Swift contract (itself not uncommon in the modern music industry) is that it gives Swift's management the right to smash people's cameras and equipment for non-compliance.

Now, the idea that a minor fracas over copyright could result in anyone deliberately destroying cameras might seem extreme, but it's not unusual. For example, if you purchase a ticket to a gig at, say, Southend's Cliffs Pavilion, the terms and conditions are written to allow staff to destroy your stuff:
The use of equipment to record or transmit audio and/or visual material inside the Venue is strictly forbidden. Unauthorised recordings, tapes, films or similar items may be confiscated and destroyed. Any recording made in breach of these conditions shall belong to the Venue and/or Promoter of the Event. Neither the Promoter nor the Venue will be liable for the loss, theft or damage to confiscated items.
As, increasingly, video and audio is being published to the web as it is consumed, either the Pavilion intends to march on Periscope servers with bats and torches; or else this is just basically a way to punish transgressors by smashing their stuff without any comeback.

Is Swift a hypocrite? Probably not - there's a wide difference between making musicians subsidise a major multinational's promotional campaigns and a photography landgrab, but it would be nice to see her take a lead in the question of photographer's rights in the same way she's taken on Apple.

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