A freelance photographer says Taylor Swift is a hypocrite after the singer published an open letter that led to Apple reversing its decision to not pay musicians any royalties for its three-month free trial of Apple Music.
In the letter, Swift said that she was not asking for payment for her own benefit, but for those who couldn’t afford to go three months without music streaming revenue:
This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt.
But according to one freelance photographer, Swift’s heartfelt pleas lose gravitas when you take a look at her unfair policy toward image licensing.
Photographer Jason Sheldon published an open letter on his blog, explaining that Swift’s attempt to control the use of her photos means that photographers might not get paid for their work.
Sheldon points to a “contract authorisation form” photographers are expected to sign in order to take pictures of the artist on behalf of a publication. His problem is that any photograph he takes of Swift can only be licensed once to a single publication, and so he would be unable to sell that photograph again if the newspaper decided to drop the story for something more pressing. Swift’s label, Firefly Entertainment, would also retain the rights to the photograph.
As a freelance photographer, I am asked to photograph concerts by publications. I get paid IF and when the photos are used, not for turning up to a show and shooting it. Therefore, if the newspaper has a bigger story to run and doesn’t have enough room to use my photo, I don’t get paid.
When I’m not allowed to do anything else with the photos, that means I’ve incurred expenses to work, which I can’t recover. Therefore preventing me from licensing my photos to more than one publication, or even (as later versions of this contract stipulate) preventing me from using the images for my own self promotion in a portfolio, while they can use them without licensing the usage, is highly unfair and unjustified.
Sheldon said that by doing so, Swift was exploiting photographers in the same way that she accused Apple of planning to exploit artists:
You say in your letter that three months is a long time to go unpaid. But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity. How are you any different to Apple?
Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.
In her letter, Swift asked Apple to change their policy — nobody asks Apple for free iPhones, so the company shouldn’t be asking for free music from those who create it. Sheldon made a similar argument in his letter to Swift:
Photographers don’t ask for your music for free. Please don’t ask us to provide you with your marketing material for free.
Sheldon signs off by telling Swift that it is “time to stop being ‘mean.'”