In our last newsletter we wrote about Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple, Inc. and the ensuing kerfuffle over Taylor Swift’s hypocrisy for the way she treated photographers covering her concerts.

Just to recap, Swift’s letter to Apple scolded the company for not compensating artists during its customers’ 3-month free Apple Music trial. Apple, you will recall, backed off. But then photographers lashed back. One photographer, Jason Sheldon, took Swift to task over her restrictive “Concert Photo Authorization Form,” which granted Swift the right to exploit the photographer’s images forever without compensation to the photographer. Another photographer pointed out that her most recent authorization form permitted her company to destroy the photographer’s equipment as punishment for breaching the agreement. Since our original article, the issue resonated with some media outlets. The Irish Times refused to print Taylor Swift photos. Deputy picture editor [of the Irish Times] Brenda Fitzsimons wrote that the terms and conditions are “exceedingly restrictive” and “not feasible for a working newspaper and website”. . . After reading the contract, the paper said that it would rather not print any photos… But this move by Swift to protect her image rights is another example of artists and artist representatives going to considerable lengths to protect any potential revenue source as the traditional music industry contracts.”

Likewise, several newspapers in Montreal: the Montréal Gazette, La Presse, Le Journal de Montreál, Le Devoir and Métro did not send photographers to Swift’s concert. Interestingly, the New York Times’ photographer was not subject to the same restrictive photo agreement and one report indicated that the Washington Post was able to amend Swift’s agreement. Big news organizations have the clout whereas individual photographers have none. When the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) got into the act it was Taylor Swift’s turn to capitulate. At the same time the NPPA began an independent review of Swift’s agreement, it was approached by her public relations team who told them they were open to discussing the agreement’s terms. Together with the NPPA and various media groups, the parties revised and released a new photography guidelines agreement. The new contract licenses back some additional rights to photographers upon written permission and dispenses with the equipment destruction remedy.

Does it address the concerns raised by photographers? Well, Jason Sheldon, who wrote the original open letter to Taylor Swift says it’s a good start but falls short. His analysis is beyond the scope of this article but worth reading if you would like to learn more about the profession of photographing entertainers and the practical considerations that a photographer confronts when signing boilerplate contracts.

— Adam G. Garson, Esq.