Freelens, the largest group of photo journalists in Germany issued a notice a few weeks back that Jahreszeiten Publishing was forcing all photographers to sign a contract without the possibility for negotiation that would grant them ownership rights to all photographs taken in the course of an assignment.

“Should photographers sign the agreement, they will be left with absolutely nothing – not even the possibility of marketing their works later in the form of archive photographs. This is because the contractual clauses are intended to secure free-of-charge use in all print and online objects of the publishing house. This would make untold publications possible for many years, in return for only a modest work fee that merely covers single, non-recurring use.”

You can read more on their blog (here).

Or better yet sign the petition (here).

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  1. Thanks for this. I’ve just signed the petition.

  2. I just had a very similar contract sent to me a couple months ago for a Brazilian company that I shot for, of which I did not sign, and after a couple weeks of ugly emails and posturing we ended up getting to a fair contract in which I owned the copyright and they had the one time use rights…the sort of contract that keeps a photographer in business. It can be overwhelming as a sole freelance photographer stepping up to large companies and deal with bad contract after bad contract, especially in these hard economic times, but the plain truth is if you (we as a group of photographers, including those that are just starting out and should know better but don’t because of lack of education or whatever) don’t you will surely “sign” yourself out of business eventually.

    ~ ch

  3. I got a very similar contract from another German magazine, Photon ( , that does stories on solar technology.
    Same thing, everything you shoot becomes their property, basic copyright transfer. I was even told many will not sign the contract, esp. in the USA, but would I like to?
    When asked, they said it was not to be negotiated.
    I declined and I hope any others did. It was odd that they were very upfront about how bad the terms were, but were totally unwilling to talk about it further. Sign it do not.
    We all should not.

  4. From Ilsa, She-Wolf of the Photo Department:
    “SWINE! You VILL sign zis document or you VILL be shot!!! NO QUVESTIONS!”
    Sorry….I signed the petition.

  5. I’ll sign that. Photographers around the world need to stand together as a community of professionals and artists.

  6. Mondadori, the Italian publishing company owned by Berlusconi (yes, THAT Berlusconi) started the same policy a few years ago.
    The remaining Italian publishing companies are little by little acting along the same line taking advantage of this economic downturn which has lessen (as we all know) our power (power?).
    This we must stop. And the only way is not signing those contracts. That’s it.

  7. Well…you hardly hafta go all the way to Germany to find rights-grabbing publishers! M. Shanken Communications, publisher of Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado, Food Arts, Market Watch and Impact, has had a work-for-hire contract in place for years and yet they seem to get some of the best celebrity photographers out there to shoot their covers (particularly for Cigar Aficionado) and feature articles. I stopped shooting for them because they insisted I either sign or move on! And even after I stopped working for them, it took over a year before they would send me back my originals, including two cover shoots I had done.

    Years later, I resold some images of Wayne Gretzky and his wife from one of those cover shoots and got a call from Gordon Mott, the Editor in Chief, telling me, “…this is precisely why we insist on owning our shoots!”…..because he didn’t like the fact that the images were republished in the NYPost.

    So while I dislike what Jahreszeiten publishing seems to be doing, I would love to hear if anybody reading this has had any recent experiences with M. Shanken and if their own buggering of creatives has changed…


  8. This is really frustrating. I am not a well known photographer by any stretch of the imagination. I barely eck out a living in my niche (agriculture photography). However, even I KNOW to protect my copyrights and have turned down work to do so.

    Don’t get me wrong, if someone offered big money for all rights to a generic image that I figure has a life of 10 years and expected income less than that, then I certainly will think about it. But to sign away rights so that my work will be SEEN (which I desperately need) is not a good way of doing business IMHO.

    That is why it really frustrates me to see the VERY PROFESSIONAL professionals like those mentioned @ Brad Trent’s message above. These are people who preach this to the masses, yet do it themselves.

    One last point. I do protect my rights to my work, but I also protect my clients by offering time limited exclusive usage, guarantees that a photo has never been used, etc. Since I, and many other photographers help to protect our clients in these ways, seems to me these clients should also be very vocal against rights grabs by their fellow publishers. Because if they don’t, it makes photogaphers less inclined to join them in protecting their rights as well. Again, IMHO.

  9. Another nail in the coffin of the current incarnation of the publishing industry. They think they are being clever and increasing revenue, but eventually the only people who will sign these draconian things are the clueless dolts.

    Clueless dolts rarely make good contractors.

    I think its worth noting, stories like this aside, work for hire practices are actually at a level lower than they ever have been before. It was not that long ago that WFH was the default for most paid work and courts tended to favor Goliath over David.

  10. Das ist voll Scheiße!

  11. Sad to say but the agency I work for, Patrick McMullan Company, has an even worse contract in place. Hopefully these photogs can break this beast.

  12. This is exactly what is wrong with our industry – not the horrible WFH contracts- but the short-sighted, idiot photographers who sign them. This profession is ninety percent business and ten percent photography. many people realize this until too late. All this talk about photographer’s standing together is all fine and good -it has been said at every ASMP meeting , but too people are out for them selves . Sad but true.

  13. The biggest newspaper publisher in Finland, Sanoma News, also just now tried to exert a contract on its all freelancers (photographers, journalists, graphic designers, critics etc) that they have to give away full copyright to all material they submit. The publisher would get exclusive rights to publish, alter and sell the material, of course with no additional fee. Scary.

    Understandably none of the freelancers agree with the contract, and they are trying to negotiate with Sanoma News. I hope all goes well and the publishers come to their senses.

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