Why there’s no photo of Taylor Swift’s gig in today’s ‘Irish Times’

Terms of photographic contract ‘too restrictive’ for a working newspaper-and-website

Maeve Bradley, Laura Cody, Stephanie Lonergan, Kelly Murphy and Kinga Jakubiec before the Taylor Swift concert at the 3Arena. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Maeve Bradley, Laura Cody, Stephanie Lonergan, Kelly Murphy and Kinga Jakubiec before the Taylor Swift concert at the 3Arena. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Taylor Swift played the first of two sold-out shows in Dublin last night, but you won’t find a photograph of her onstage at the 3Arena in The Irish Times today.

The singer has insisted all photographers covering her live shows sign contracts which outline restrictions on what they can and cannot do with pictures of the pop star onstage. The use of such contracts has become increasingly common in the live music business in recent years.

However, Swift’s photograph authorisation contract includes a number of onerous restrictions, including a “one-time-only” use limit on publishing the photograph which elapses at the end of 2015.

Any other use requires “written consent” from the artist or her agent, while Swift reserves the “perpetual, worldwide” right to use the photographs for publicity and promotion.

Talking about the decision not to use photographs of the singer, The Irish Times deputy picture editor Brenda Fitzsimons said: “The terms and conditions of the contract are exceedingly restrictive and just not feasible for a working newspaper and website.

“The photographs may be used on a one-time only basis and by signing her contract we grant Swift perpetual, worldwide right to use the published photographs in any way she sees fit.”

Swift recently received many plaudits from music industry observers for criticising streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify on behalf of independent artists, over copyright and royalties.

However, she has now been labelled a hypocrite for treating photographers in much the same way she believes Apple and Spotify have treated her.

An open letter from British freelance photographer Jason Sheldon was widely shared online in the past week, when he pointed out certain aspects of the contract.

“Photographers don’t ask for your music for free,” Sheldon wrote in his letter. “Please don’t ask us to provide you with your marketing material for free.”

A spokesperson for Swift responded that the contract had been “misrepresented” and that copyright would remain with the photographer, which Sheldon says he never disputed in the first place.

But this move by Swift to protect her image rights is another example of artists and artist representatives going to considerable lengths to protect any potential revenue source as the traditional music industry contracts.

Once, allowing photographers to snap live shots was a way of promoting an artist. Now, it’s seen as giving an unscrupulous snapper the means to produce an unofficial Taylor Swift calendar or book.

The next step must surely be a clampdown on camera phones in the first couple of rows at every show.

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