Recent concert goers expected to have a fun night out at Janet Jackson’s “Unbreakable” tour when their memories were stolen from them as Instagram deleted not only content, but also whole user accounts for copyright violation. Although Jackson issued an apology and revised the policy, she made it clear she had full intentions of protecting her intellectual property in the future asking fans to forgo the use of long clips.
While this is one of the first attacks on fan photography, the professional world is not blind to these issues. Earlier this summer, Taylor Swift was accused of unfair treatment in relation to photographers when she called out Apple Music on their unjust three month free trial period where the artists would not receive compensation, meanwhile she was not paying photographers completely for their art. Bringing this issue to the forefront, like any issue involving Swift, other photographers joined Jason Sheldon in the fight to give photographers unlimited usage of their work. Sheldon remarked on a photo taken on her 2011 tour, “I can’t use it in my portfolio, feature it on my website and even the original newspaper couldn’t reuse it.” Swift’s team was quick to backlash saying their terms have changed and that the statement was not relevant to the 1989 World Tour.
Many bands are harping on the “it’s a standard photo contract” line while stripping the rights of photographers. The Foo Fighters require the photographer to immediately sign over the rights to their images after the initial publication. As newspapers such as The Washington City Post choose to boycott coverage as a whole, Quebec newspaper, Le Soleil, took a humorous approach by sending a cartoonist rather than a photographer.
What is most unsettling is the lack of respect artists have for other artists. Dweezil Zappa has one of the most stringent contracts, requiring photographers to sign away all rights to the images with no payment and not allowing personal usage without his permission. When confronted on his strict regulations, Zappa sarcastically quips about photographers taking advantage of free tickets and products they can sell with the pictures. He warns people to not take pictures if they don’t like the terms.
Janet Jackson also has an opinion on professional photographers giving them just 30 seconds of her entire show to shoot, then securing the rights to all images. For photographers working for news outlets, they do not have the means to turn down jobs as such so they must deal with the conditions and are therefore knowingly taken advantage of.
There is no simple solution to the corrupt ways of photography contracts. It seems outrageous to expect payment as an artist but not offer payment or rights to a different type of artist working for you. With more stories in the news of infuriated photographers, one can only hope that a resolution will be called for.