On Monday morning, we shared the story of Jason Sheldon of Junction 10 Photography, who brought into question Taylor Swift’s contract given to the photographers who shoot her shows. Apparently, the points made in this contract seem to resemble exactly what the pop artist was angered about when she penned her now famous “Open Letter To Apple.”

The contract given to photographers is delivered by a company called Firefly Entertainment Inc. and, according to Sheldon, is a total rights grab of the images that concert photographers take—it seems to grant Swift and her promotion company unlimited, exclusive use of the photographs without compensation. Not to mention, the photographer is not even allowed to re-license the work or use it in a portfolio.

And yet, in my opinion, the issue isn’t so much that Swift and Firefly secure the absolute rights to the photos. The photographers have the choice of whether or not to sign the contract, just as Swift and Firefly have the right to include whatever stipulations they may choose. However, the issue at hand is that Swift is not practicing what she preaches, as attested in her rally against Apple. The open letter calls out Apple for using musicians’ work to increase awareness of the Apple Music brand without compensating the artists. But she expects photographers to completely give up the rights to their images as Firefly sees fit to promote Swift?

I guess the difference here is that Swift’s use of the photos would strictly be for non-commercial purposes—which wasn’t the case for Apple’s use of the music. But what some may not realize is that the self-promotion a photographer gains from their work could be considered equally as valuable as the royalties a musician receives from their songs. But while they’re two entirely different industries—photography and music—could this have merely been an oversight made by an uninformed management company?

The thing is, although I previously stated that I didn’t believe Swift had any idea what the contents of these contracts are, some new information has led me to question the intentions of not just Swift, but also her family.

On the Finra broker check of a man named Scott Kingsley Swift, the company Firefly Entertainment Inc. is listed under the “Other Business Activities” section. It is widely reported that Taylor’s father is a man who is, in fact, named Scott Kingsley Swift—a wealth management adviser at Merrill Lynch in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the same city listed in the report. Furthermore, Firefly Entertainment Inc. is listed as Taylor’s Management company and is also listed as being headquartered in Nashville.

Finra Broker Check on Scott Kingsley Swift

Finra Broker Check on Scott Kingsley Swift

Additionally, if there is still any doubt that this man, Scott Kingsley Swift, is the father of the pop artist, the privacy policy on www.taylorswift.com states the site can share information with other parties. And believe it or not, of those parties is Firefly Entertainment Inc. Even further, the companies 13 Management and Swift Merchandising also appear, which are the same companies listed on the Finra Broker Check of Mr. Swift. While the check does list “employee” as a possible role within these companies, it’s hard to believe a wealthy, successful and intelligent Senior Vice President at Merrill Lynch would have nothing to do with the creation of the massive Taylor Swift Enterprise.

Privacy Policy On TaylorSwift.com

Privacy Policy On TaylorSwift.com

 

My point is that if Swift is a global superstar with enough influence to make a mighty corporation such as Apple—a company with more cash than the U.S. government—buckle within hours, surely she can convince ‘whoever’ runs Firefly Entertainment to give photographer’s rights to use their images for self-promotion. Right?

In my opinion, if Swift doesn’t at the very least change her contract to include this minor stipulation, her paragraph claiming to be standing up for the rights of artists not as fortunate as her rings very hollow. “Art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for,” writes Swift.

With this, allow me to end with an open letter of my own:

Dear Taylor,

You changed the lives of struggling musicians for the better. Now please change the lives of struggling photographers for the better.

With Love,
Every Hard Working Photographer In The World

[Header image © avrilllllla via Flickr]

  • avalon

    From what I have read, Swifts contract with photographers is the same as most major acts who allow photos taken at shows. Bruno Mars doesn’t even alow them in, Beyonce has the same contracts and so does Bieber. Swift doesn’t need photos of herself the entire concert is filmed by Swift. You dont like her stipulations to see a show and take photographs of her….go stand outside with the vultures (paparazzi).

    • Cynthia Britt

      Methinks you have missed his entire point.

    • Mike

      The point is she is trying to appear that she is taking the high road, while she subjects the same crappy take it or leave it terms to those photographers. If she wants to strike a blow for art, she must do it for all art, or wear the crown of hypocrisy.

  • Cynthia Britt

    Hoisted by her own petard.

  • oberts mail

    My open letter to Taylor Swift, Garbage and other Entertainers. http://btsmedia.agnetia.net/?p=1826 Another point is that photographer who make photos in concert venues get paid when they can sell the photo to a editorial etc, if there is none, then they don’t get paid. Some entertainers do hire some photographers ( I think Swift has her own crew, I don’t know if or how much they are paid ) so they can release official photos. A person commented on my article that does he own Swifts recordings if she makes them in his studio, I responded depends, did she pay you, if not you can legally own the recordings until she pays you, if you have a good contract in place. I think we as photographers have it all wrong. We should demand they sign our authorization release to take their photos at our terms! If all photographers followed suit, there would be no more entertainment photography until they decide to hire some professionals and pay them for what is right. But the point is she has double standards when it comes to her letter to Apple and her own policies, hence my open letter to Swift was created much in Swift’s own words .

    • Designerific

      Please don’t tell me Shirley Manson is evil. Please don’t!

  • KST

    This article is absurd. I would bet that Swift pays photographers a flat fee to shoot her shows so she can have photos for HER OWN benefit. However, and regardless, they have no right to make additional money through selling or re-using her photographs. Even IF she simply allows photographers to shoot her show, upon request, but does not allow them to profit off of her image, that should still be her right. Swift’s tour belongs to her. Swift’s image belongs to her. Swift’s music belongs to her. Would you allow a private recording studio to profit off of the artist recordings they capture? What if that studio said “you can come here and record and we won’t charge you because the publicity would be good for us.” It is absolutely no different. Even IF these photographers are not compensated, each of them has decided that the publicity of being able to say “I am a tour photographer for Taylor Swift” is worth it (and they are undoubtedly right). If they didn’t think it was, they would have stayed home. To call Swift a hypocrite for not wanting someone else to profit off her image is ridiculous–in fact, is is 100% consistent with her stance against Apple. (ASSUMING the article is true), in BOTH scenarios Swift is trying to prevent APPROPRIATION of what belongs to the artist-whether it is the image or the music.

    • Arthur Penelope

      The legal copyright is actually owned by the photographer not Taylor Swift even if she hires the photographer herself. Also based on current copyright laws and fair use one could potentially record a music show themselves and sell it depending on the context and social basis.

      you keep suggesting that the image is hers when as mentioned based on current copyright laws the images belong to the photographer even for example in situations where I buy a camera and SD card and lens and then get someone else to take my picture with my own equipment the copyright is owned by the person who took my image not me. The reason behind this is because a new creative medium has only been created by the person who pressed the shutter button.

      Effectively Taylor Swift is using her influence and leverage to undermine the work and copyright of the photographer by putting forward unfair contracts and making photographers sign or leave.

      In short the music does belong to her and appropriating that (depending on context) can violate copyright laws however the images belong to the photographer who took them.

      • KST

        You can contract around copyright laws.

        • Arthur Penelope

          Absolutely, however the same could be said about contracts in the music industry. The point is that Apple was creating a situation which was legal yet unfair to musicians, Apple could argue well we are not making any money for those 3 months why should the musicians. In the same way Taylor Swift has (possibly indirectly) endorsed contracts that are unfair to photographers.

          • KST

            Swift thought the contract with Apple was unfair to her and her fellow artists, so she did not sign. Fearing the backlash (and potential revenue loss) from artists following suit, Apple changed their policy. If the photographers thought the contract with Swift was unfair, they should not have signed.

          • Arthur Penelope

            I don’t think the definition of a fair contract is based on whether someone signed it or not. Also as you can see photographers are reaching out and stating they believe the contracts to be unfair hence the current post and coverage. This situation has allowed photographers to voice their concerns and be heard.

          • KST

            Actually, by virtue of SIGNING the contract, the photographers were AGREEING to the terms of the contract–meaning there was a “meeting of the minds” and all parties agreed that the terms were fair to both parties. If the contract did not bestow a sufficient benefit to the SIGNING photographers, then why did they sign? While the existence of a contract is not conclusive evidence of fairness, it is some evidence of fairness. Also, as to your earlier contract that “Apple could ague well we are not making any money for those 3 months why should the musicians”: are you kidding me with this? Because the music is not Apple’s to give away. Someone has to pay for it. They shouldn’t be allowed to just say “I am going to give your music away for free, so..sorry…I am not going to pay you for it.” If they want to give it away for free, FINE, but the artists still deserve to be paid.

          • Arthur Penelope

            I think that is illogical to suggest that a contract if fair simply because someone signed it. Does that mean the people who signed up to Apple are directly against Taylor Swifts idea of a fair contract? Or could it be the case that when you have a large organisation or individual who has allot of influence and power they can dictate terms which are not fair but still make people accept them.

            Also yes the music does not belong to Apple and same could be said about the images but as you suggested copyright can be bypassed via a contract which is what apple in a way did and which is what Taylor Swift does.

            Also that comment made about apple not paying for the 3 months, I was playing devils advocate I think that may have been lost on you.

            In any case I don’t think your points are valid and I believe them to be illogical therefore there is no longer a need to continue this discussion because we will not persuade each other otherwise.

          • KST

            Fair enough. I think that people are smart enough to make their own decisions regarding whether or not a contact is right and fair for them. You seem to think that the best person to decide whether or contract is right for the parties is…hmm…the public? Other people in the industry. This is illogical because different people have different experience levels and motivations. What may be fair to a struggling, inexperienced photographer looking get his foot in the door may not be fair to an experienced bad a$$ photographer who has a book of business. This is why the terms, negotiations, and execution of contracts should stay between the parties to the contracts.

            As for your inquiry “does that mean the people who signed up to Apple are directly against Taylor Swifts [sic] idea of a fair contract?” Absolutely not. All it means that the contract was fair enough TO THEM to execute it, and it was not fair TO SWIFT. Now, thanks to Swift, they will get the benefit of a better contact. However, had Swift’s plan backfired, and Apple decided to ditch the whole platform, those artists who had decided the contract was fair to them would have been PISSED. Many of them may have lost access to a platform that could have given them exposure they would not have otherwise. Every musician is at a different phase of their career. A musician who is just starting out and wants to get their name out there may be happy to give their music away for free for a few months or longer. It is not our job to look into the motivations and intentions of the parties to a contract, that is their job. The bottom line is: DON’T AGREE TO THE CONTRACT IF YOU DON’T AGREE TO THE TERMS.

            But, it has been a pleasure bickering with you. Let me know next time you are going to sign a contract so I can tell you if the terms seem fair to me.

          • Arthur Penelope

            Ah I love your final comment lol

            I think we can agree on one thing, the concept of fair is nothing more than perception.

            This agreement also makes both of our arguments pretty much pointless.

            Anyway I sincerely hope you’re enjoying your day 🙂

          • Designerific

            Just curious… So why does the rest of the recording world need Taylor Swift to “stand up” for them? They’re all smart enough to make their own contract decisions, right? Just like her, right?

          • KST

            They don’t. (They don’t NEED her…just got lucky to have her)

          • Mike

            Its a Contract of adhesion,…………For a contract to be treated as a contract of adhesion, it must be presented on a standard form on a “take it or leave it” basis, and give one party no ability to negotiate because of their unequal bargaining position.

      • Designerific

        Correct. Copyright remains with the photographer unless he / she has specifically signed it away (or if the photographer is an actual regular paid employee of Swift, working at Swift’s location).

      • cp3

        work for hire, your illustration of person who takes a picture of you using your equipment owns the picture is correct if there is no existing contractual obligation.

    • Michael Bonocore

      I agree with the stipulation in her contract stating the photographer cannot re-license the images, and I say so in my post. You say “Even IF these photographers are not compensated, each of them has
      decided that the publicity of being able to say “I am a tour
      photographer for Taylor Swift”…sure they could say that, but where is the proof? They aren’t allowed to display those images for self promotion on their portfolio. That’s what I think is hypocritical of her stance. To me, taking the rights away from the photogs to use the photos in self promotion is equal to musicians not being compensated while Apple uses them for promotional purposes….in this case Swift is free to use the images to promote herself anywhere she wants, forever. To me, that self promotion aspect is valuable to a photographer. While they don’t get money from the actual photographs, the right to PROMOTE the photos helps gain credibility which equals jobs in the long term.

      • KST

        The proof is in the reference on their resume.

        • Michael Bonocore

          Who is the reference? Taylor Swifts talent agency isn’t answering the phone verifying that some photographer was at the show a year ago. Also, in my 8 years of getting paid photography work, I have never ever presented a resume. I don’t even have a resume. All my work is based off my portfolio.

          • I knew a girl who had this happen with the singer/songwriter Jewel, early in her career. She photographed Jewel for quite some time, and not knowing contracts had signed an agreement with Jewel’s management company. She was told that she had the right to display the images in her portfolio, despite that not being in her contract. It seemed that everything was going fine, until Jewel’s management decided they no longer wanted this photographer around. When the photographer left, Jewel’s management warned her about displaying any images, even in a portfolio, and that they would file a lawsuit against her if they found out she tried. While this is an obvious case of someone starting out with good intentions, and trust, but not understanding contracts, I think it also shows how little music management companies care for the professions of other creative individuals.

            Definitely, it was a harsh lessen, and she quit being a photographer after that experience. Some may mark that down to lack of experience, or the management being smarter than the photographer. Anyway, this type of thing is not unique. There is too often the idea that if you are nice, then you must be stupid and naîve, and some people will see that as an opportunity to take advantage of people. I understand the competitive nature of creative professions, but if you have to screw people to get ahead, then I don’t consider that as being successful. We saw some of that with the band Garbage recently. The contract Swift and her management are using is nothing different, though if she wants, she has a chance to change things.

        • Kat Love

          Taylor is greedy

      • Killlian

        It seems you’re a bit mistaken. This isn’t a contract given to photographers hired by Swift. This is given to photographers assigned to photograph the show that came to their area by newspapers, magazines, or any other outlet. Swift never pays them anything for photographs taken and the photographers usually only get paid from the sale of the images, not simply for going to the show. Even if they get up front pay it is usually so low because it’s made up for in back end sales. She is not paying for the images at all.

        • KST

          So she let’s photographers that she does not hire come into her show if the agree not to profit off her images? Sounds fair to me. She could just not let them in.

          • Killlian

            Then she would have zero media coverage. This isn’t for some joe shmo that has a nice camera.

  • KST

    A point point regarding overall fairness of the contracts: Why would a photo of Swift at her concert be valuable? Is it valuable because of the subject or valuable because of the photographer? It is valuable because of the subject. No one cares who the photo is BY, they care who it is OF. Unlike some photography, most of the value does not lie in the technique and skill of the photographer, but in the beauty and skill of the subject. If these photographers though photographing Swift under the terms of the contract did not bestow a sufficient benefit, they should not have signed. It’s a free country–TURN DOWN THE JOB.

    • Jianna Xiong

      Lol. then ask yourself this question: why is marketing valuable? is it because of the marketed subject’s own existent value or is it because of contents used for marketing strategies? To say that the value of any kind of marketing comes from its subject’s own existent worth is self-contradictory and would essentially render the entire industry of marketing useless. However, marketing is clearly not useless (hopefully this statement is self-evident to you). Therefore, it is safe to say that marketing is valuable because it utilizes strategies other than the subject herself. Photographs have been one of the most popular and effective tools for marketing, and their contents, though related to the marketed subject, have nonetheless SEPARATE value from the subject because they are used precisely to ADD to the subject’s existent value. Now, does Taylor Swift have a marketing team. She not only has one but has one of the best ones in the entire music industries. The portion of her current fame, power, popularity, and wealth that is created by photographs of her is probably immeasurable but definitely tremendous. While perhap no one cares about the photographer, people also shouldn’t have the illusion that photographs and their subjects are THE SAME THING because the have very much separate worths. So, when Taylor’s marketing uses a photograph for her publicity, which is intended to increase her perceived value, they are essentially taking the value of the photograph and adding that to Taylor the live, real person. This process should not be done without compensation. Just like you cannot take expensive jewelries from a store and wear them to increase your own perceived worth without paying for the jewelries, neither can any marketing campaign take an external object, meaning anything that is not created by them

      • cp3

        In my humble opinion, there is a slight diversion in the arguments you presented, but I do agree marketing is definitely valuable, take film industry for instance, more than half of the initial investment/budget are often spent on marketing, no marketing means no box office results even when megastars are featured in the movies.

        Here, however, KST seems to suggest that for individual fans or photographers who aren’t contractually obligated to take pictures for Taylor Swift, the subjects of their photos matter more than the photographers themselves. This case are more commonly seen on paparazzi shooting in public places where celebrities have no reasonable expectation of privacy (or probably more often times they do). These pictures attract our attention only because they are of the subjects we are interested in. I wouldn’t want to see a picture of some mediocre singer at some random dive bar. At this stage of Taylor Swift’s “million dollar empire” career, as you acknowledged, the buzzes created by paparazzi and by individual photographers or fans who post pictures on social platforms with the hope of getting a few more likes have already accumulated at certain point where any picture by itself provides only limited marginal utility for Taylor Swift, so limited that Taylor Swift wouldn’t even care, and quite honestly probably beyond her control too. What Taylor Swift cares are the photos that are both useful for her own marketing campaign and can be controlled. So she hired photographers to shoot at her own concerts.

        Now there is the problem, the contract seems to have convinced a lot of people that these hired photographers are being underpaid or even not paid at all – that’s what is really agitating them. But in fact the contract released online is merely an authorization form. No quotes for the photos or other types of compensation are even mentioned. Indeed it is likely that photographer this profession is generally being underpaid, but why? There is probably more supply than demand. It is not forbidden for parties who have more bargaining power to use that power and negotiate a good price for them, that’s how market economy works. And it is not uncommon for salesman who are getting paid on commissions – which is quite similar to the case at bar, albeit a bit arbitrary because the selection methods of photos are not something quantifiable. If all photographers are thinking they are being paid so little and it is so unfair, maybe they should approach it like it’s a minimum wage problem.

        At last, take your jewelry example to illustrate the point: for an ordinary consumer, to wear jewelries she would probably have to pay for them first, whereas for celebrities, jewelries worn can be part of their endorsement deals, they are being paid and asked to wear the jewelries so the brands can get more exposure at red carpet events, or through those pictures taken by paparazzi and fans.

  • E Shield

    awesome article! she is such a hypocrite

    • Kat Love

      She’s also not a global superstar. She’s not the popular outside the US

      • Designerific

        You win. She’s not a global superstar. Those sold-out arena concerts in Europe and the USA are just two of the seven available continents.

        • Kat Love

          Oh wow really. Gaga did the same thing and I doubt she is fully well known outside the U.S. Taylor is hugely popular in the US but not so outside the US. Beyonce is known pretry well outide the US. Michael Jackson is a global phenomenon. You can’t handle the truth. Also her time on top will decline anyways.

  • Designerific

    Folks need to understand the “default basics” of copyright law for imagery. And it goes like this:
    If you generate a creative product (photos qualify as such) and are not physically employed BY your photographic subject, working AT their place of business (home-based does not count) to do so, and…
    … You have not been specifically hired by someone else (with a specific contract that releases your copyright to them),and…
    … You have not signed a contract SPECIFICALLY RELEASING the copyright to that subject (or any other party), then…
    YOU are the copyright holder of the IMAGE.
    Selling the image to an editorial publication later, is just a regular, old-fashioned aspect of journalism. The subject has no default right to any future journalistic compensation (not to worry, as the photographer is never going to get paid very much for this anyway).
    BUT… This doesn’t mean the photographer can turn around and use his / her image of Taylor Swift (shot at her concert) for use in a revenue-generating commercial “product” (such as a poster or a book). Swift would still have to agree to that. Because she does indeed own the rights to her own likeness. That kind of future thing would require contracts from both Swift and the photographer.
    What our good friend is saying here is this: Swift expects photographers to agree to submit ALL of their work to her, let her choose which (if any) photos she deems worthy of being submitted to the publication, and then handing over all of the remaining work to Swift. And granting her the copyright as if she created all of it. She would be free to (later on) publish a book of all her best concert memories, sell that book, give NOTHING to the photographer who shot the work, etc. Meanwhile, it is entirely possible that the photographer was paid NOTHING for any of the work in the end. And they lose their work forever.

    • Kat Love

      Taylor is not a global superstar. She is not that popular outside the US

      • Designerific

        She is certainly the top-earning musician in the world (by far) right now. No one else even comes close.

        • Kat Love

          That’s Beyonce

          • Designerific

            Glad to see you’re focusing on the central issue here.

          • Kat Love

            You are a Taylor fan I get it but you can’t handle the truth bye

        • Jianna Xiong

          A global superstar is also not judged by the amount of money they earn but by their influence in other countries.

    • snapshot1

      “This doesn’t mean the photographer can turn around and use his her image of Taylor Swift (shot at her concert) for use in a revenue-generating commercial “product” (such as a poster or a book). Swift would still have to agree to that. Because she does indeed own the rights to her own likeness. That kind of future thing would require contracts from both Swift and the photographer.”

      This isn’t true. The only time you need a release is when you’re using someone’s likeness to sell something commercially. I as a image copyright holder can publish and sell a book of my images without needing a release. I can have an art show of those images and sell them for $1,000’s and not need a release. These examples fall under first amendment rights of the copyright holder and why the copyright law is written the way it is. What I can’t do is use that image to sell a product, or sell (usage rights, or copyright buyout) the image to someone who is going to sell a product with it. This falls under “endorsement” and that’s when a person’s rights to their own likeness kicks in.

  • kbar

    I get why the photographer is upset when I look at it from his perspective.
    But looking at it from the outside. No artist has to allow photographers into their show.
    – Swift, and all the others could simply say “No, I’m not going to allow any photographers free access to my show and allow them to make money off my image.”
    – She could hire her own photographer/s and distribute free copies to any publication that wants them.
    – She could also use a standard boiler plate contract, restricting how her image is used, but still allowing the photographer the potential to make money. If the images are not used as originally intended, then that is between the photographer and the publication, and has nothing to do with the subject of the photographs. In exchange for allowing access, the artist gets some concessions; like, potentially, when, how, and by whom the images may be used.
    If it was me…. I would have to think very hard about allowing the photographer to use my image at part of their portfolio. That’s the only part that I might change. It doesn’t seem like it would harm me to allow that. BUT, is that the clause that keeps every nut job with a Nikon D4 and a gear bag full of lenses from pretending to represent a publication or website, adding to their personal photo album / portfolio and otherwise causing problems for the real photographers????? (I’m suspicious by nature, I get that..)
    Is the contract in the photographer’s best interest? Heck no! (Anything other than a contract with no restrictions at all is not in the ‘best interest’ of the photographer!!!) But the contract is in the artist’s best interest, and they are the ones who have to give permission for the photographer to be there in the first place. The photographer should remember that Swift was not obligated to allow them entrance / access at all.
    She could have said no!.

  • Kat Love

    I’m right. Bye. Your so indenial

  • Designerific

    Uh, Taylor… You feel that the photographic likenesses of your bum (and the bums of your dance crew) are of such ongoing value that you require media photographers to relinquish their rights to them. But what about that guy with the yellow shirt in the foreground? Actually, shouldn’t you be splitting the rights with everyone in the photo? They’re no less awesome than you, right?

    • Designerific

      Another thought… That guy with the yellow shirt is taking a photograph… Of Taylor’s vulnerable bum, no doubt. But no one is coming up to him afterwards and saying “hand ’em over dude”. Why? Because Taylor has standards. She doesn’t want the sh*t quality that comes out of that guy’s amateur hands. She wants “professional” stuff. She wants YOUR professional stuff. And she thinks that granting you the right to help publicize her creative product is worth something else too. YOUR creative product. Hand it over. Buh-bye. Love, Taylor

  • I agree any artist should be paid for their content. As well as be paid if their content is used again on a completely different service. As a content producer usage rights are extremely important. Unfortunately, slowly less popular artists rights are being striped away.

    Look all of this is a marketing stunt both for Apple & Swift. Apple’s launch of Apple Music is using Swift’s popularity to further their new music service. Apple “caving” so quickly is part of the stunt…. just makes Apple look better.

  • EVener
  • joe

    I have to be honest and say I don’t know a whole lot about photography, let alone its contracts, so forgive me if what I’m about to say comes across as ignorant.

    Surely another major difference between the Apple situation and this is that while Taylor refused to go along with apples conditions, by signing the contracts the photographer is agreeing to abide by them. In short, if you don’t like the conditions then you are not obliged to sign. Why not take a stand as Taylor has done and refuse to sign? If enough photographers were to do that, then surely the contract would have to be changed so that the concerts could be filmed?