An open letter from photographer Jason Sheldon to Taylor Swift protesting that she does not offer photographers a fair deal has prompted a response from her management

iStock_000020350237_FullTaylorSwift

Taylor Swift. Image via iStock, © EdStock

Taylor Swift’s management has responded to a photographer’s criticisms of the contracts issued to photographers commissioned to shoot her concerts.

In response to a viral letter from Taylor Swift, photographer Jason Sheldon has revealed what appears to be an authorisation form demanding exclusive rights from photographers who shoot her concerts.

In an open letter of his own, Sheldon draws attention to two points in the contract, which he describes as ‘a complete rights grab’.

‘[It] demands that you are granted free and unlimited use of our work, worldwide, in perpetuity,’ he says.

Sheldon told Amateur Photographer that he was commissioned by a regional newspaper to shoot a Swift show in 2011, and that the contract issued by Firefly Entertainment Inc (which is affiliated with Swift) stipulated he had to agree to a single use of his images. This would prevent him from earning any additional income if the paper wanted to reuse the photo in the future.

‘The reason I felt compelled to speak out was because of the similarity to her qualms with Apple,’ he said. ‘It disturbed me that someone with such a massive following was speaking out (correctly I might add) about artist’s rights being abused by big corporations, but there was this double standard that she herself is doing it to photographers who don’t have such a voice.’

He’s not the only photographer to speak out against the terms of a Taylor Swift tour – British photographer Joel Goodman posted a similar-looking document on Twitter that appeared to make reference to the more recent “1989” tour:

According to Sheldon, ‘rights-grabbing contracts’ are becoming commonplace, and in the past photographers have been afraid to speak out against them for fear of simply being told “Sign it or don’t shoot”.

Steve Derry, picture editor for the Midlands Express and Star, which commissioned Sheldon to shoot the concert, said that such consent forms were becoming more common ‘for the larger star’, and that he’d also seen a trend of acts using their own photographers and then charging for usage.

Swift’s original letter caused a public outcry last week after the artist revealed that the company would not be paying artists featured on its streaming service  during the initial three-month trial period.

Swift described the decision as ‘shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company’.

The backlash was so severe that Apple listened, its music chief Eddie Cue promising Swift on Twitter that ‘#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period.’

However, as Sheldon points out, the terms of the contract he received would mean that a photographer who spends time and money photographing one of Swift’s concerts could end up completely uncompensated, as they would be unable to sell their images on further if the original publication declined to use them.

‘Taylor Swift knows it’s wrong, Apple have seen that it’s wrong…  but everyone still seems happy to abuse photographers,’ Sheldon said.

Update 23/06: Taylor Swift Responds

Swift’s management responded to Sheldon’s letter in a statement issued to the BBC, which read as follows:

‘The standard photography agreement has been misrepresented in that it clearly states that any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval.

‘Another distinct misrepresentation is the claim that the copyright of the photographs will be with anyone other than the photographer – this agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer.

‘Every artist has the right to, and should, protect the use of their name and likeness.’

Sheldon posted a few thoughts on Twitter in response: