BY JADE MORELLINI
80s pop icon Adam Ant, performing in Sydney last week, issued restrictive waivers demanding photographers relinquish copyright on images of him taken in concert. Subsequently, many photographers boycotted his shows.
Photographers are often exploited by artists in the music industry, who expect them to work for free and hand over images without receiving royalties. On occasions, performing artists make unreasonable demands in their waivers, requesting full copyright of their images while photographers gain no credit in return.
Veteran concert photographer Rod Hunt said, “It’s a difficult situation to be in if you’re a photographer and you haven’t been made aware of that condition in advance. I was in a similar situation once, but I knew in advance that such a condition was included. I was able to tell my editor I wasn’t comfortable signing the photo release form and he agreed it was unreasonable, so I didn’t shoot the gig. If you don’t find out until the night, it can put you in a very tricky situation.”
Photographers understand the restrictions that may be applied at concerts, but it questions where the line should be drawn. Adam Ant, currently touring Australia, is one example of an artist making excessive demands from photographers. He issued a waiver insisting they pass over full copyright of one of ten photos taken during the concert.
Professional photographer Glen Morgan said, “I wouldn’t have signed that waiver. He requested the choice of which photograph he wanted and then have the rights to one afterwards and use it for whatever he wanted. That might mean his next album could have photos on it and the photographer will get nothing for it, not even a credit.”
Dave Bruce, CEO of live music website Amnplify, whose photographers recently refused to sign Adam Ant’s waiver, said, “There are legal boundaries, but there are also ethical boundaries and these are the ones many photographers have an issue with. The photographers own the photos and having an artist demanding the photographer sign over the rights to what they own is not a reasonable practice.”
Making these unreasonable demands without crediting the photographer greatly devalues their work, as a lot of time is put in to creating these images.
“It’s not just turning up, photographing and leaving,” Morgan said. “It’s not that simple, there’s a lot of editing involved and there is a lot to purchase.”
Photographers are invited to photograph these concerts; however, they are often told to leave after only a few songs.
“There are different grades of shows,” said Bruce. “In most of the major shows, photographers can shoot three songs without flash and then they must leave, [but] sometimes it’s two songs, sometimes it’s only one.”
Many photographers don’t get paid for their photos, so the bare minimum they wish to receive is some credit.
“My aim is to promote the band as good as I can and get paid for it,” said Morgan. “If I can’t get paid the only other option I have is to let them use my photos with my watermark on it and that doesn’t always happen. Many bands use the photos to promote themselves and they’ve just cropped the watermark out.”
Recently, Australian rock legend Nick Cave sent his fans a tweet asking them to send him the images they take during his concert as he and the Bad Seeds are “forever in search for press photographs.” Photographers turned to Twitter to express their frustrations at his search for free photographs from fans that may potentially replace professional photographers.
“I was disappointed to read that,” said Hunt. “You know the artist’s management who are making the request don’t work for free, but it appears that they’re happy to use people’s photos for free. It undervalues the work of music photographers, many of whom have made Nick Cave look very good over numerous years.”
Photographers deserve the same rights, expectations and respect as the artists; bands don’t perform for free so they shouldn’t expect that from photographers.
“In my experience of many years now, artist issues over photographer rights is not a common thing,” said Bruce. “It doesn’t seem to be increasing to a huge degree, so when it does occur, it does create a stir.”