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Taylor Swift Advocates for Musicians, but not Photographers

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 29, 2015

Note: After this articles was published, Swift revised her concert contract, following the recommendations of photographers. 


Creators were galvanized when Taylor Swift issued her open letter protesting Apple’s decision to not pay musicians, producers, and writers during the 3-month free trial of the new Apple Music streaming service. Her letter read like a manifesto: “These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up… Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing.” Apple paid attention and immediately reversed their decision, and Swift was widely lauded by creators – except photographers.

Within a day of Swift’s open letter, UK photographer Jason Sheldon published an open response to Swift, stating that as admirable as her stance was, it was somewhat marred by the contracts her management company requires concert photographers to adhere to. That contract includes a rights grab; the management company, Firefly Entertainment, has the right to a worldwide, perpetual license to use (and to authorize others to use) any of the photos in any media for publicity and promotion. Sheldon concluded, “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.”

Firefly shot back at Sheldon, stating that he had misrepresented the terms of the contract. (The entire contract can be read from Sheldon’s original post.)  However, in a subsequent article on PetaPixel, photographer Joel Goodman pointed out that the contract Firefly is currently handing photographers is significantly worse. The terms Sheldon objected to – limiting photographers to a one-time use within a specific publication, and granting Firefly and Taylor Swift Productions the rights grab – are still present. But the current contract includes a clause permitting “authorized agents” of Firefly and Swift the right to “confiscate and/or destroy” the photographer’s equipment, should the photographer “fail to fully comply” with the terms of the contract. Or, as PetaPixel succinctly puts it, “Break Our Rules, and We Can Break Your Gear.”

While a protest against Swift’s inconsistency in sticking up for the rights of all artists hasn’t materialized, at least one publication has taken note. PetalPixel reported that The Irish Times, the second most widely read newspaper in Ireland, decided not to include any concert photography in their coverage of Swift’s sold-out gigs in Dublin. The Times wrote that they took issue with Swift’s photo authorization contract: “The photographs may be used on a one-time only basis and by signing her contract we grant Swift perpetual, worldwide right to use the published photographs in any way she sees fit.”

Below: An excerpt from Swift’s contract, highlighted by photographer Joel Goodman.

Joel Goodman contract excerpt

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