Newspapers reject overreaching freelance photography contracts

by Rachel Sanders

Freelance photographers have something to celebrate this week: a little pushback from newspapers against overreaching contracts for concert photography.

The Montreal Gazette, La Presse, Le Journal de Montréal, Le Devoir and Métro refused to send photographers to the Taylor Swift show at the Bell Centre in Montreal last Tuesday because of a contract that claims worldwide rights, in perpetuity, over all published photographs from the concert without offering any compensation to the photographer. The contract also gave Swift’s management the right to confiscate or destroy equipment containing photographs of the concert.

Montreal paper Le Soleil refused to sign a similar contract offered by the Foo Fighters earlier this month. Le Soleil published a post explaining the decision and explaining that they paid Québec cartoonist Francis Desharnais to draw an illustration to run with their coverage of the concert instead.

Washington City Paper took the same position on the Foo Fighters’ photography contract this month. The paper explained in a detailed post on July 2nd why they would not agree to to the terms of the Foo Fighters’ photography contract, describing the contract as “exploitation of photographers, pure and simple.”

Earlier this week the paper published another post explaining what they did instead, which was to pay two fans for photographs taken from the audience. Editor Steve Cavendish urged the band to take another look at their photography contract, saying “demanding the work of creatives for free isn’t very rock ’n’ roll.”

Amber Bracken, the president of the News Photographers Association of Canada (NPAC) says she is pleased to see media organizations taking a stand on copyright-grabbing contracts for photographers.

“NPAC is mandated to defend photographers’ rights so it’s great to see we have allies on this issue,” she told Story Board via email this week.

Bracken said that despite Canadian laws that protect creators as automatic copyright holders, photographers are seeing more and more onerous contracts that leave them without usage rights for their images.

“Contracts for concerts have been increasingly tightening for a long time but photographers and media organizations have been hesitant to react. Being meek has only gotten us backed into a corner so this push back is long overdue. I hope it continues to build momentum so we can have some meaningful dialogue around copyright, usage rights and sustainable practices,” she said.

Bracken says it’s especially frustrating for photographers to be presented with overreaching contracts by musicians and other artists.

“It’s a climate that doesn’t make sense to me, since as creators I think musicians and photographers have lots of common ground. I would hope that we can build on that to create industry standard practices that are mutually beneficial,” she said.


Posted on July 15, 2015 at 11:35 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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