Paul Hebert

Taylor Swift – Champion or Chump?

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Taylor Swift performs during the 2015 Rock in Rio USA Festival on Friday, May 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by: Paul A. Hebert/Press Line Photos)

Taylor Swift performs during the 2015 Rock in Rio USA Festival on Friday, May 15, 2015 in Las Vegas, NV.  (Photo by: Paul A. Hebert)

Recording artist Taylor Swift is being heralded as a modern day Joan of Arc by many in the music industry. However photographers are singing quite a different tune.

In an open letter to Apple, Inc on June 21, 2015 Swift chastised the computer giant for their policies on the soon to be launched Apple Music.

Photographers are now asking Swift to do similar and remove or change a contract which they claim is unfair and limiting to them.

In her letter to Apple, Swift explains why she will be withholding her multi-platinum selling album “1989” from the service, due to Apple’s policy of not paying a royalty to the artist during the company’s three month trial of the service.

“I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company. “

Swift goes on to claim how she is speaking up for the many smaller artists who do not have a voice.

“This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.”

She continues with.

“These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly.” “Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing.”

She ends the letter with a request to Apple.

“But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation. “

Within 24hrs (on a Sunday even) Apple posted a statement stating that they would be reversing their policy and would pay artists during the three month trial.

This was a major win for recording artist across the globe, but many photographers are claiming Swift to be a “hypocrite”.

In a open letter back to Swift , photographer Jason Sheldon claims Swift to be a bit hypocritical when it comes to protecting artists rights. Sheldon takes issue, much like many other photographers, with a contract which is presented to professional media photographers prior to photographing one of Swift’s performances for review and editorial coverage . The contract claims that Swift and her management companies have rights to use the photographs for their own promotional use, and that the photographer cannot utilize them in any way other than one time. (Clauses 2 and 3 of the contract). This contract allows Swift to use the images created by the photographer, to promote herself – yet does not allow the photographer the right to even show the photos in their own portfolio of work.

2011-concert-photo-authorization-form-firefly-rev-1-26-1100055994-21A UK representative for Taylor Swift, however, told Business Insider via email that the standard photography agreement to which Sheldon referred was “misrepresented.”

The contract “clearly states that any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval,” the representative said.

The person added: “Another distinct misrepresentation is the claim that the copyright of the photographs will be with anyone other than the photographer — this 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.”

PetaPixel is reporting that UK-based freelance photographer Joel Goodman tweeted a copy of a new contract, which is being handed out to photographers for Swift’s latest 1989 World Tour which states they have the rights to destroy photographers equipment for non-compliance.



“If you fail to fully comply with this Authorization, authorized agents of FEI, the Artist or the Related Entities may confiscate and/or destroy the technology or devices that contain the master files of the Photographs and other images, including, but not limited to, cell phones and memory cards, and the Photographs and any other images.”

Many larger media outlets and news based photo agencies will not allow their photographers to sign any form of contract to photograph an artists performance. Swift’s team has been known in the past to waive and/or amend this contract in order to secure that press coverage.

Photo agencies such as Getty Images are then able to license these images to other publications for a licensing fee, none of which goes to Swift. Swift seems to accept that trade off in exchange for those photos being distributed, but she will not allow the photographers for smaller news outlets the same right, or even the right to showcase the work in their own portfolio.

A license to use the image on a website/mobile (ie facebook/instagram) for Editorial purposes will cost $49 for a three month license from Getty Images, per their online licensing system.

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Many times these sorts of contract are put in place by the artist management and/or pr companies much to the shock of the artists.

Recently artist Michael Franti was informed of a similar policy presented to photographers and immediately issued the following statement via facebook.

“I share your shock and concern. I have never seen this release and was unaware it was sent out to any of you. It was sent out without my knowing or approval and I am grateful for you bringing it to my attention. For as long as we have been a band our photography policy has always been to allow photographers to shoot as they wish and distribute the photo in whatever way they see fit, or have made mutually beneficial agreements for their use. In addition we have always allowed photographers access to “the pit” for our entire show, not just the first three songs as many artists do. I have always recognized the symbiosis of music photographers and musicians and also dig seeing coll ass photos taken of any musician, so please continue to make amazing art and disregard the release that was sent out. Please accept my personal apologies on this one. Rock on!”

Also artist Kim Schifino of Matt and Kim responded to a similar release stating

“…We have NO interest in having copyrights to anyone else’s photos and think everyone should be payed for their work fairly. We were unaware of the wording of this contract and it is being revised! We are supporters of all the arts sorry this came out the wrong way. Big hugs, kim”

Photographers are simply asking Swift to remove (as she does for larger outlets) or amend her contract which is fair for everyone.

I commend Swift for her stance against Apple and ability to change the music industry for the betterment of other musical artists. While fully agreeing that an artist needs to protect their image, having a contract restricting professional photographers does not do that. There are tens of thousands of people at every concert posting  every second of her concert via their cell-phones, more times then not, in non-flattering photos.

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