After winning a short battle with Apple regarding an artist’s right to get paid, Taylor Swift recently fell under attack by photographer Jason Sheldon, who basically accused T. Swift and her people of engaging in the same nefarious dealings as Apple. Swift’s argument against Apple was that three months was a long time to wait to get paid, as Apple was not planning on paying artists royalties while customers were on a three-month Apple Music free trial period. Sheldon countered that the contract he signed to photograph Swift in 2011 said that he could not profit from his work more than once, essentially calling her a hypocrite. (Sheldon is a freelance photographer; freelancers are generally paid once for an assignment, and then can hopefully turn a profit by reselling the photographs to other news outlets.)
Swift’s people responded by stating that “any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval,” implying that Sheldon misinterpreted the contract. Consequence Of Sound puts the issue in simple terms for those of us who didn’t excel at contract law in college: “The contract circumnavigates copyright all together by allowing Swift and her companies to use the images in promotions without ever paying for them. In other words, the photographers ‘own’ the images, but can’t do anything with them, and Swift can use them in any ‘non-commercial’ way she sees fit.” Presumably, “non-commercial” implies social media posts and not tour programs, official websites, that poster on your bedroom door, or album art.
Now another freelance photographer has released the contracts that are required to shoot this year’s 1989 World Tour. Apparently, this contract is even more strict, with the rules not only containing the “rights grab” that Sheldon mentioned, but a clause that implies that if a photographer doesn’t follow the rules, “Firefly Entertainment, Inc., the Artist or the Related Entities may confiscate and/or destroy the technology or devices that contain the master files of the Photographs.” Seems pretty mean, Taylor:
T. Swift—the person, not the business entity—has not released a statement on all this yet. Realistically, though, the singer-songwriter is probably not going to come into the pit and smash your DSLR to bits. In fact, Swift probably has no idea how all this legal mumbo jumbo works, and doesn’t really care. She’s got too many dates to go on and too many songs to write.