Tag Archives: photography

Montreal newspapers refuse to photograph Taylor Swift concert because of onerous rights contract

If you know any teenage girls, you’re probably aware that Taylor Swift did a show at the Bell Centre last night. You might have heard it was quite a show, with lots of costume changes, and at one point the artist singing her hit song Shake It Off on an elevated, spinning platform.

But you won’t see pictures of the concert in today’s newspapers. La Presse, the Journal de Montréal, Le Devoir, Métro and the Montreal Gazette all refused to send photographers to the concert because they could not accept the terms of a contract the company running Taylor Swift’s tour required media photographers to sign.

Among the terms of the contract, which the Gazette has posted online:

  • The photos could only be used once. Newspapers could not keep the photos for their archives or to use as file shots later on.
  • The photos could not be posted to social media.
  • Swift was allowed to use all photos for non-commercial purposes (including promotion) in perpetuity.
  • Swift or anyone else related to the tour had the right to damage or destroy equipment or data belonging to photographers if the terms of the agreement were not met. And the tour is absolved of all liability for damage or injury to photographers.

Photographers’ protests of the terms of the agreement (which seem to have evolved over the course of the tour) have been made from the beginning, and in particular since Swift wrote an open letter to Apple explaining she was taking her music off Apple’s new subscription music service because it wasn’t paying for the music during the free trial period. Needless to say, photographers saw this as hypocritical on Swift’s part. (Other artists who you’d think would be cool have also been called out on this behaviour, like Foo Fighters.)

Swift’s people (though not Swift herself) responded to concerns by suggesting the agreement has been misread, and pointing out that copyright remains with the photographer. “Any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval,” the spokesperson said, apparently thinking the “with management’s approval” part wouldn’t be noticed.

There were alternatives available. Newspapers that subscribe to Getty Images would have had free access to professional-looking photos of the concert provided to that wire service. Hell, the images can even be embedded for free onto blogs for non-commercial purposes, like so:


But whether these photos can be considered editorial is up for debate. These photos were commissioned by the tour, and using them would have been akin to using handout photos.

This strategy of having quasi-official photos done by Getty Images and muscling other photographers out has been criticized by media in the past. Getty distributes NHL game photos from NHL Images, which gets preferential treatment in terms of arena access and shooting positions during games, much to the annoyance of local media photographers.

Simply put, Getty was not an acceptable alternative.

Last week, the Irish Times took a stand, explaining to readers why it didn’t photograph Swift’s show in Dublin.

Today, Montreal papers joined them:

Newspapers and TV stations are used to dealing with restrictive demands when shooting major concerts. Usually they’re permitted to shoot only the first few songs, from only one particular location, and can’t shoot anything backstage. Most of these demands are accepted, if somewhat reluctantly, because the purpose is to ensure the photographers don’t disrupt the experience for the fans.

But Swift’s agreement isn’t about the fans. It’s a rights grab that serves little purpose other than to piss off local media. And it’s clear local media have had enough.

UPDATE (July 12): Le Soleil in Quebec City upped the ante for a Foo Fighters concert there, by opting to send a sketch artist instead.

Big media is stealing your photos

Local blogger Julie Belanger is peeved at 24 Heures. They published a photo of hers, without permission or credit, to illustrate a story.

It’s the kind of stuff you expect from amateur operations. Do a Google Image search and copy whatever looks good. Take a stock photo from Getty Images or iStock without paying for it. Or just go on Flickr, ignore the copyright or copyleft notices and use a photo for commercial uses, with or without attribution. TVA isn’t above it.

What makes this case interesting is the response she got from the editor: The photo was sent along with a press release, so they’re not responsible.


Whether or not this was done (the organization that sent it denies that any photo was attached and the release on Telbec backs them up), it’s the newspaper’s responsibility to ensure that photos and text they publish are not protected by copyright. Just like you can’t get away with having stolen merchandise just because you bought it from someone dirt cheap in good faith, you can’t simply pass the buck on copyright infringement.

If the organization sent the newspaper a photo and made it clear that there was no problem publishing it, then the newspaper should sue the organization and the photographer should sue both.

Sadly, because these photographers don’t have copyright lawyers on retainer, big media can simply screw them over.

Scoble has (some) scruples (UPDATED: Is Scoble noble?)

Casey McKinnon, my future wife the co-host of Galacticast (which promises to have a new show some time in the next eon) is speaking out about being burned by PodTech.

It’s a good lesson for techy startup companies who think that because they’re cool they don’t have to treat people with the same professionalism that other companies do.

Ripping off a photographer is a prime example. I’ve heard countless stories of small magazines asking for people to provide high-quality content free in exchange for only the “publicity” they would get from having their name beside it, and perhaps one day getting a few dollars.

Not having enough money to properly get your startup off the ground is one thing. But PodTech isn’t poor, it’s just lazy.

UPDATE: Credit where it’s due. Scoble has responded both here and on Casey’s post. It doesn’t negate the criticisms, but it mitigates them somewhat. Hopefully PodTech’s act will improve as a result.

Plagiarism from those who should know better

Shouldn’t TVA know by now that grabbing whatever comes up under Google Image Search isn’t free for you to use as you wish?

TVA plagiarism

Apparently not. On the left here is a screenshot from a TVA news report. On the right is the photo they used, taken by a Montreal blogger who isn’t happy about it being used without his permission. (For those who think it’s a coincidence, check out the train in the lower right corner of the photo.)

Meanwhile, Canoe, the Quebecor-owned web portal, also used the same photo to illustrate a Journal de Montréal story (not sure if it was in the paper itself), though they credited the author, as if that somehow gives them free reign to use other people’s copyrighted work without permission or compensation.

As a freelancer, you can imagine how much this annoys me.