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.
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:
You changed the lives of struggling musicians for the better. Now please change the lives of struggling photographers for the better.
Every Hard Working Photographer In The World