Filed under WTF? I’m told some photographers are asked to sign this document and some are not. “…I hereby grant, transfer, convey and assign to you all right, title and interest throughout the universe in perpetuity, including, without limitation, the copyright…”

Seriously, you need the copyright!? What’s the point of coming to your stupid effing show and taking your picture then?

Guess times are tough in the music biz.


Recommended Posts


  1. Wonder why some are asked to sign it while others are not.

    • @Emon, Because some people are on assignment for Rolling Stone or some other major magazines and the magazine said no.

  2. Dear Perry Farrell,

    Repeat after me: Why are we alienating the very people we use to get free publicity?

    Now please write that on the blackboard 1000 times while listening “Been Caught Stealing”.

  3. Well, I think what they’re trying to do (albeit in a semi-nazi kind of way), is prevent people from using the photos beyond the publication they’re being taken for. Anyone with a camera can post images on to stock photo sites now and make a lot of money from them. Or create posters on any quick-print website and sell them, etc.

    This certainly removes any ambiguity that amateur and semi-professional photogs might have regarding whether they can take concert shots and make a bunch of money off of them.

    The sad part is that it removes photogs ability to use them in portfolio. But as far as publicity goes (comment by ellis vener), the shots can be used for whatever publication is named in the release without any issues at all. If you’re truly legit and ONLY want/need to use them in a real publication, than this shouldn’t cause you any problems other than that icky feeling you get when signing over all your ownership in something you’ve taken. but the assumption is that you’re getting or have been paid by the publication for the shots, so you’ve already made your money for taking them.

    • @Franklin,
      You would need a release to do anything with the images beyond editorial. That of course doesn’t stop amateur photographers from making posters and tshirts anyway but I’m told a professional photographer was asked to sign.

    • @Franklin, A concert photographer can’t always live off what his editorial client pays – in some cases that’s just a photo credit. People shoot bands in the hope that they can make supplemental income via resale and help keep them in an industry they love. Further, do you think photo editors want to only see a highly flattering selection of images presented by the band they are editorializing? Can we rely on the band to maintain an accessible archive of images for future publication?

    • @Franklin,

      “any problems other than that icky feeling you get when signing over all your ownership in something you’ve taken”

      that’s a pretty damn icky feeling. as APE points out, you cannot legally use photos other than editorially without the signed permission of the artist. (model release)

      Fairly, legally and ethically licensing work for use is the ONLY real asset that the photographer has. (and now we are all freelance, do you think magazines are paying us a salary and health benefits? a staff position, esp. in music photography, does not exist)

      What happens when 5 years later Spin is doing a feature on the band and no-one can legally provide images?

      Except on the very scuzzy end of paparazzi work, editorial is a bare bones market. A photographer may work all day to make a $150 single use sale.

  4. UGH! It’s pathetic and wrong, but not new. But it does seem increasingly insulting given how hard it is to make a living shooting bands and given the state of the music biz. I’ve seen these contracts before over the years, and was once confronted by a band’s management claiming images published were restricted by an agreement like this. Problem was, they simply couldn’t navigate what pics were taken at what gigs and who’d signed what when. I’ve also had photographers sign these “Mickey Mouse” and get away with it. I have never seen a clause as bonkers as this has about the Copyright Office though. They’re insane!

    I’m sure I heard recently that if you give someone your copyright you’re permitted to claim it back after a certain period…must investigate.

    • @Julie, Copyright protection does not last “in perpetuity” and the Copyright Office clause is not bonkers, it’s what transpires when transferring a copyright.

      • @Debra Weiss, I was referring to clause 2 in the Jane’s Addiction photo release.

        • @Julie, I’m aware of that. Since the contract calls for a transfer of copyright, there’s a reason their attorneys included that clause.

          • @Debra Weiss, Have you seen this before in a contract presented to a photographer at a concert?

        • @Julie, Have you seen this before in a contract presented to a photographer at a concert?

          • @Julie, No – but it wouldn’t matter whether it was at a concert or not. It would be (or something similar) in any contract that required a transfer of copyright.

            • @Debra Weiss, I suppose what I’m getting at is the burden on the photographer who isn’t being paid to go to lengths to protect the third party. Of course their attorneys want it in, I just find it (can’t think of best word) that it’s come to this when a performer appears on a public stage.

              • @Julie, The photographer who will work for free has already placed the burden on themselves and the entire community. Working for no compensation is sheer idiocy. Yet, so many of you seem to make a willing and conscious decision to do so. It is no wonder that contracts such as JA’s are becoming more and more prevalent. Why wouldn’t they present photographers with this contract. They know exactly with whom they are dealing.

                • @Debra Weiss, You’re just trying to cheer me up! : )
                  I am not a photographer, and when I said “free” I meant “little”. I would never and have never suggested anyone shoot anything for free. I’ve worked in music/celeb image syndication for nearly 20 years, I do understand what’s going on here. That doesn’t make me any less aggravated at the state of play though!

                  • @Julie, “Little” is more damaging than free and free is pretty damaging. It isn’t only happening in music – this is taking place in every genre of photographer. I understand the aggravation part all too well.

                    • @Debra Weiss, meant to say “every genre of photography” . This forum needs an editing tool.

                    • @Debra Weiss, I know you do, we’re on the same side here.

                    • @Julie, Now, if we could just get the actual photographers on the same side we’re on, maybe it would be a different business. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that will ever happen.

      • @Shane, Excellent, that’s a great info, thanks.

        • @Julie

          That may be US law, but wondering if that would stand up internationally?

          During the Second World War, the Japanese often demanded POWs sign agreements not to escape. Such an agreement was contrary to military regulations but necessary to keep men alive. It was common therefore to sign Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Judy Garland or just “Dorothy”, Al Capone etc. etc. and those phony names were signed on the advice of POW military lawyers, who said that law applies differently to contracts signed under duress than contracts signed voluntarily.

          • @Robin Rowland, This is completely non-analogous. Please do not trivialize what WW11 POW’s endured by comparing that to a photographer who has made a conscious decision to accept a bad deal.

  5. This is very common for performance shooting. It’s also common for editorial shoots of celebrities. PR people are showing up on set with copyright transfer contracts. Sign it or “never shoot one of our celebrities again”.

    • @Tricia, It is NOT normal for a publicist to drop a contract like this on set. no way. Any “agreements” are presented before the shoot date and never include any transfer of rights.

      If you sign an agreement with these terms you’re insane.

      • @ericF.,

        Of course we don’t but that doesn’t mean they won’t try. And people who don’t know better will sign.

  6. This is becoming unfortunately not all that uncommon in the music biz, for some of the bigger-name bands. That said, I shot Jane’s Addiction just last month and not only was there no rights-grabbing contract to sign, there was no contract to sign at all. Shame to see some photogs were given this crap.

    I’ve also signed plenty of reasonable contracts that allow portfolio usage and don’t make any rights grabs, and are clearly just meant to ensure that the photographer doesn’t sell images for posters and such.

  7. I had to sign one of these before shooting Journey. There were other bands on that tour that wouldn’t allow photography whatsoever (Heart and Cheap Trick).

    I’ve often wondered what might happen if you took upon yourself to cross out certain sections of those agreements such as not being able to use it in your portfolio…

    • @E.S., You don’t have to sign a damn thing. Just say no. Don’t be stupid. You’re sending the message every time you sign something like this that it’s OK to walk all over photographers.

      • @Eric Hamilton,

        To shoot or not to shoot. I was hired and paid for this gig, and traveled 60mi to the venue. I wasn’t just gonna say no and get denied to shoot. I’d screw both my client and myself. Sure, it sucks- But maybe it’s not me who’s stupid. I didn’t make these rules.

        • @E.S., Every negotiation starts with the word “no.” If you are not willing to say it, you have NO POWER in negotiation. Your clients will smell that from a mile away and treat you accordingly. I’m not saying you’re stupid – I’m warning you not to act stupid – and if you’re smart, you’ll give it careful consideration.

          All your clients should know well in advance of the gig that you retain the copyrights to your photographs. It’s a standard boilerplate on both my contracts, and my invoices – and all my clients get invoices prior to the shoots. That simple step would have covered your ass in this circumstance, and given you the power to say no when you were presented with the contract you never should have signed.

          – Eric

      • @Eric Hamilton, Amen!

        • @Tim, Jesus, haven’t you either of you heard of growing a spine? I own the URL It might be a good time to put it to use.

          • @Debra Weiss,

            Not sure why these comments have to start off so negative when the only reason people are here is to learn and share ideas. More often than not, you get preached at and lambasted. Kind of sours the experience, no?

            That said, thanks just the same for the info, @Eric Hamilton. I should certainly include a copyright retention notice in my estimate/invoice boilerplate. A separate line item that specifically addresses these types of contracts that we are asked to sign on-site at the last minute might also be something to think about-

        • @Tim, My apology Tim – I did not see the whole thread. My comment should have been directed only at E.S.

          • @Debra Weiss, no problem.

    • @E.S., Modifications to a contract (stuff you write in or line-out) have to be initialed by BOTH PARTIES to be valid.

  8. That release is the same one that they asked me to sign for the Smashing Pumpkins. I did not sign it they way it was written.

    It has more to do with the record label / venue / publicity company than it does with the band.

    The odd part is that on the recent NIN / JA tour they allowed anyone to shoot from their seat with ay camera they liked as long as they were not going to sell the images.

    The rules for concert photographers are getting more and more restrictive and they are making it harder to earn a living.

    Oh, and the folks that are working just for a photo credit. Please stop. If your photos are good enough to be in a magazine, you should get paid in cold hard cash.

  9. Huh?

    @A Photo Editor: that was part of my point. Amateurs think they can do anything they want with the images just because they were there and pushed the shutter button. For some reason, there seems to be a serious lack of understanding amongst a breed of “concert photographers” of basic copyright and model release related laws.

    @Julie: Huh? You can’t just take photos of people and make money off of them, that would be illegal in **most** circumstances. Are you familiar with model releases?? Property releases?? Your points make no sense. You can’t just go to concerts, shoot the band, and then sell them without their consent. It doesn’t work that way, so your desire to “make supplemental income via resale” is about the same as me downloading the band’s music via Limewire, burning CD’s, and then selling them on eBay. I made the effort to find the song, download it, and burn the CD’s, I should be able to make a supplemental income for my time and trouble, right?

    Seriously, it is because of amateurs not understanding copyright laws that these stupid contracts get drafted in the first place. If all photographers did what they were supposed to do, the rest wouldn’t have to endure this stupidity by bands like JA, and perhaps the professionals (or publications) could retain ownership of some of these shots while licensing back use to the artists. THAT would be supplemental income!

    • @Franklin, I know exactly what I am talking about. “You can’t just go to concerts, shoot the band, and then sell them without their consent.” Yes you can. Model releases and property releases have nothing to do with it. How do you think magazines run stories about bands over the ages? How do you think MTV does “Behind the Music”?

    • @Franklin,

      Yes, you most definitely CAN re-sell images (provided you reserve the rights to do so by not signing them away).

      Editorial uses require absolutely no release from the subject, and so sales are permitted without them.

      As for making posters, well, that’s another story.

    • @Franklin, model releases are not required for editorial, fine art, and a broad range of other uses. They are needed for advertising or any use that implies endorsement.

      Photographers and publications can also get into trouble if the use implies something about the person in question that is untrue.

      The point is, it is legal to sell and resell images shot at concerts without the artists permission – in fact, such uses are constitutionally protected in any country with a free press. Such rights are fundamental to the protection of democracy, whether they rub you the wrong way or not.

    • Chris’ statement above is good information and practical advice.

      My process for dealing with this stuff is very similar:

      Just yesterday I had an assignment to shoot a biggish band for a big music magazine. The publicity contact sent a form that stated in essence that I could only use the image for this single use and never, ever again without the artist’s permission. If any other unauthorized use occurred, I would be fined $30,000 payable to the artist.

      As the photographer, it was left to me to deal with the contract. So I wrote a polite email to the publicist, explaining that I understand the artists desire to have a say in the use of their image and that my intention is always to 1) make the best work possible 2) make sure the magazine well cared for 3) make sure the band is well cared for and 4) retain the legal permissions to fairly use my own work.

      I rewrote the agreement, got rid of the 30k issue, said I would limit the use to the assignment for a period of 3 months and would in good faith check with them about additional uses.

      It was approved by the manager and I was allowed to work within some fair limits. Win Win Win.

  10. This is a new policy for them, implemented just in the past month. Sadly, this contract is all too common. I believe that the Foo Fighters, Coldplay and Mars Volta, for example, have similar rights grab contracts. There are some contracts that even insist you send 11 x 14 prints to the artist’s management (Avril Lavigne, for example), which is completely ridiculous. No Doubt requires that you email the photos to them for approval before you are allowed to publish them. There are so many examples of completely unnecessary contracts.

    I fully understand the need for artists to ask photographers to contractually agree that they won’t shoot and make posters, mugs, calendars, etc., but there is NO need for them to own our work.

    I strongly hope that photographers will take a stand and refuse to sign these rights grab contracts, but sadly, many photographers are just happy to be shooting the band and don’t really care. There is also the option to cross out any portions of the contract that you don’t agree with, but you can’t always get away with this.

    • @Carrie, “I fully understand the need for artists to ask photographers to contractually agree that they won’t shoot and make posters, mugs, calendars, etc., but there is NO need for them to own our work.”

      There is no need for that. Legally you cannot sell the images outside of editorial use.

      • @ericF., True, but many people who have access to photo passes these days are not aware of this, sadly. I have zero problem signing these waivers, as they are harmless.

        • @Carrie,
          you should have a problem signing. they are not harmless.this effects all of us as photographers trying to make a living.just because one has a fancy camera and access does not mean they are a photographer. its not all about making photos.rights grab contracts are never good unless you are fully compensated.

          • @jonathan beller, I think you may have misunderstood me. I have no problem signing contracts that state I can’t make mugs, calendars, etc. and that they’re for editorial use only. I DO have a major problem with the ones that include rights grabs.

  11. @Franklin re @Julie… it’s your *most* circumstances that you miss the point… you cannot resell commercially, but alternate editorial use and / or fine art would otherwise be permitted without model release. And most concert photogs would want to be able to fill out their income w/this, promo shooting, and or other event shooting…

    Concert photography alone is usually not going to be enough to make a living on …for most photographers, and certainly not as more restrictions like ripping away copyrights…

    But as long as folks sign them, it will continue…good bad or otherwise, is almost beside the point (well my point)…

  12. It’s a pretty common occurrence, especially with the bigger bands, fortunately many pros refuse to sign the contract and just don’t bother shooting the concert. I highly doubt the band members get a say in it, they probably don’t even realise what kind of restrictions their PR teams are putting on photographers. Concert photographers have a hard enough time as it is thanks to the availability of photo passes and such.

  13. My idle speculation on this one:

    PR people have a tendency to look at the world as “top tier” and everyone else. I’m sure there are individual photographers, and ones representing specific publications, who would be courted to shoot a specific event (in this case Jane’s Addiction). Then there are a bunch of others who want to shoot the event, but the PR folks don’t really see much strategic value.

    Since this contract seems to be a requirement only for some photographers; I’m going to guess it’s for the second tier. And the attitude is “sign it or go away.”

    Of course the problem with this approach is in an Internet society the line defining “top tier” is a lot more fluid than it was, say, 10 years ago. So I can see the potential for some excellent photographers being turned away (and will probably not be amused if, at some point in the future, the folks representing Jane’s Addiction actually want them to shoot). On the other hand the “second tier” can contain a lot of pompous assholes who can be excruciatingly demanding, then they’ll turn around and screw you. So I can see this one both ways.

    I suspect the bottom line here is it’s all about volume. More people with cameras want passes to shoot events than the PR folks have bandwidth to pre-screen. So the default becomes a very restrictive contract.

  14. First contract writing like this I have seen, though I heard of all rights contracts like this before. Sadly there are plenty of amateurs willing to shoot “famous” people just for that close access, the excitement, or the “opportunity” to do it; and often for little to no compensation. The publicists, labels and bands have the upper hand in this, and they know it. What they don’t have (yet) is access to “all rights” from the better photographers. I don’t know that a boycott would work, but if some photographers were more organized that might be a solution.

  15. This comes up again and again and again…

    Same arguments every time. Some photogs rant about losing rights to their work. Some agree that it’s better to sign and shoot than not to sign at all. Some decide to try to build a coalition to prevent this kind of action in the future. Nothing ever changes.

    The one time I was involved in an all out refusal to sign a rights-grabbing contract like this was one of the various American Idol tours.

    Here’s how it read (names omitted to protect the guilty):


    In consideration of the sum of $1 (receipt of which you hereby acknowledge) and of us allowing you to take photographs of _____ and _____ (“Artists” ) on _____ at _____ (“the Photographs”) you agree:

    1. the Photographs we approve may be published in _____ on one occasion in the week commencing _____ 2004;

    2. except as provided in paragraph 1 above you will not use, publish or otherwise exploit the Photographs (including the approved photographs) or authorise anyone else to do so, without our prior written permission;

    3. to supply to us one contact sheet or digital copy of the Photographs within seven days after the date of this letter;

    4. we may use any of the Photographs for promotional purposes connected with Artists;

    5. you will not reveal to any third party any confidential information concerning Artists or us you may come to know by virtue of your access to the Artists.


    What happened? Nobody shot the show, nobody got paid, nobody sold stock images. The local newspaper? Ran an AP shot from earlier in the tour, and nobody knew the difference except the photogs who were sans income.

    Here are some other examples of great contract language from the concert photography field:


    System of a Down:
    – – – – –
    You hereby agree that the Photos shall not be used and/or or exploited for any other purpose or in any other manner other than for the Assignment, including, without limitation, for any commercial exploitation, on any musical recordings, on any packaging of any musical recordings, and/or in connection with any advertising, promotional merchandising and/or publicity relating to any musical recordings.

    Dixie Chicks:
    – – – – –
    The Photographer and Publication understand and agree that they may not reproduce the photographs taken at the event (“Photographs”) in any media other than the Publication, and may not reproduce, sell, distribute, publish, copy or otherwise exploit the Photographs in any other form or manner whatsoever.

    The Photographer and the Publication understand and agree that the Photographer will shoot only from areas designated by _____, will shoot only at times designated by _____, will not obstruct any audience view in any way, and will not have access to stage and backstage area. The Photographer assumes all risk for personal injury and damage to equipment and property. The Photographer and the Publication warrant that Photographer is an authorized representative and agent of the Publication.

    Peter Gabriel:
    – – – – –
    You hereby assign to us the copyright and all other rights in and to the Photographs for the full period of copyright including any renewals, reversions and extensions existing under the law in force in any part of the world TO HOLD the same to our successors, assignees and licensees absolutely throughout the world for the full period of copyright subsisting throughout the world. We hereby grant you the exclusive right to use the Photographs in the magazine publication entitled _____ (the “Publication”) only. You agree and undertake that any license by you to the Publication shall contain an express prohibition on any other use by the Publication of the Photographs.

    Save for the foregoing use we shall have the full and unfettered right to exploit the Photographs in any manner whatsoever via any medium (whether now known or hereafter discovered) including for the avoidance of doubt by photographic means, reproduction in connection with goods and services, via film, television, world wide web, digital broadcast or otherwise. Any such uses shall be without payment or further reference to you. We will endeavor to provide you with a credit in relation to any use by us of the Photographs.

    – – – – –
    I have the limited right and permission to use certain Photos that have been approved by you solely in connection with one (1) article about you contained in _____. The Photos may be used only in an article, publication or other medium initially disseminated to the public within one year of the date of this agreement. I shall have no right to otherwise use or re-use the Photos in whole or in part, in any medium or for any purpose whatsoever, including, without limitation, promotion, advertising, and trade, without your written consent therefor.

    I hereby acknowledge that you shall own all rights in the Photos, including the copyrights therein and thereto, and accordingly, I hereby grant, transfer, convey and assign to you all right, title and interest throughout the universe in perpetuity, including, without limitation, the copyright (and all renewals and extensions thereof), in and to the Photos. I agree that you shall have the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations as you determine, without obtaining my consent and without any payment or consideration therefor. I understand that you will give me appropriate “photo credit” where possible. I understand further that all aspects of said “photo credit” shall be determined by you in your sole discretion and that failure to accord said “photo credit” shall not be deemed a breach of any obligation, express or implied.

    I further grant to you the right to use my name, likeness and biographical data in connection with the distribution, exhibition, advertising and exploitation of the Photos. I will, upon request, execute, acknowledge and deliver to you such additional documents as you may deem necessary to evidence and effectuate your rights hereunder, and I hereby grant to you the right as attorney-in-fact to execute, acknowledge, deliver and record in the U.S. Copyright Office or elsewhere any and all such documents if I shall fail to execute same within five (5) days after so requested by you. You may assign my rights under this agreement in whole or in part.

    50 Cent:
    – – – – –
    All Photographs which Photographer intends to use first must be submitted to Artist for approval. The print, negative, or other material embodying disapproved Photographs will be promptly destroyed by the Photographer. This license will automatically expire without further notice if the article containing the approved Photographs is not published by the issue date above.

    At no time may Artist photographic image be altered by Publication. Any proposed post-production work to occur on any and all photographic images of Artist must be set forth in writing by Publication prior thereto and pre approved by Artist. Artist must have approval on any and all photographs that have been altered in any way, even if agreed to prior to photo session, before photos may be used in publication, and reserve the right to ask for approval of prints anytime thereafter before permission is given to use photos again.

  16. @Julie: I’m sorry but you’re just wrong. And if you pursue that path of thinking you may get away with it or you may get sued for a lot of money. The publications and newspapers can use them because they are journalists using them for journalistic/news purposes. And/or they are doing stories on the bands with the consent of the band’s management and get releases for the shots later.

    Read copyright laws. Read the fair use laws, read about libel/slander. Read about privacy laws.

    If the person is recognizable in the photograph, they’re protected and you need a release to sell that image of them. Plain and simple. There are a couple of subtleties in this related to people appearing in a **some** public places where there is a reasonable understanding that they could be photographed (I believe), but they are still covered from you using the shot for many commercial uses.

    Even if the shot is used in “journalism” or “news” but is highly inflammatory, damaging, and/or misrepresents the truth, the person can sue the publication if they do not have a release. this occurs all the time with the gossip rags and celebs suing them.

    Here is a short quote from an article on the subject:

    “What if your subject is a public figure or a celebrity? Say it’s the President, a Senator, or some Supermodel taking that tumble. Public figures have less of a right to privacy, but their right to prevent use of their photographic likeness for advertising or trade purposes without their explicit permission is as strong as anyone else’s. So, once again, you don’t need a Release for a news story. You do need a release if the picture is used in an ad.

    There is a reason these laws are in place. And abusive photogs who go around and ignore these laws are the ones that are ruining things for the rest of us. There is no “easy money”, so stop.

    • @Franklin, We have some misunderstanding going on. I have not mentioned advertising. I am an image licensing professional so please, don’t be sorry, I’ve made a very nice living licensing images of famous people taken by 100’s of photographers and agencies worldwide and paying them commissions for about 20 years. I have relationships with publicists, management, merchandisers; I’ve not made any easy money, I have run a respectable licensing company. As have dozens of other editorial licensors.

      • @Julie, I apologize, I did indeed misunderstand. Relicensing for editorial use is obviously the only area that they can be used again in. You are absolutely right and that was also pointed out by Chris. I think Chris’s advice is great.

  17. Rights Grabs:

    1) Do not sign them.

    2) Inform your editor that you do not sign them. They should support you. (If they don’t, you have a pretty serious problem.)

    3) Be polite, rational and professional but stand your ground when voicing your objection. It’s very likely that the person you are talking directly with is not the one responsible for enforcing the document. These “agreements” often come from the management / legal/ label / pr and not necessarily the artist.

    4) Threaten to walk away from the assignment and see what happens. You’re providing the band with publicity. If they want the publicity your photos generate they’ll change their tune.

    Example One : I was asked to sign away the copyright to images of a multi-platinum-selling rock band before one of their shows.

    I politely declined and called my editor to explain the situation. As soon as the assignment was in jeopardy, I was allowed permitted to complete the assignment AND keep my copyright.

    Example Two : I was faxed a rights grab before the performance of a well known singer. I was told I needed to send it back signed in order to pick up my photo pass.

    I called my contact directly and explained that since a single assignment fee wasn’t enough to make a living on, I need to have the option of reselling my work for future editorial use.

    I further explained that I had no interested in selling mousepads or t-shirts with of the artist on them.

    I stated that my publication would support my decision to walk away from the assignment if need be.

    My contact called the band’s management.

    I was allowed to shoot.

    • @Chris Owyoung, Applause!

  18. One of my favourite band ever and one of the best concert i’ve ever seen(in 1993) but they are crazy to do something like that and take Chris advice and don’t sign and we’ll see what they decide to do when no publication is taking pics of their gigs
    They used to rule.

  19. “throghout the universe, in perpetuity”

    throughout the universe ?!?!?!?!?

    for f**k’s sake

    are these guys all smoking crack ?

    “yeah but what if we like travel to other planets and then like they try to sell the pictures on like man another planet yeah like i mean yeah like then maybe we should add in something to stop that”

    they didn’t figure in that maybe we would invent a time machine. where is the clause saying we can’t publish these pictures IN THE PAST..?

    “Throughout the universe”, my fat a**.

    Jane’s Addiction. Blow me, really. Who cares ?

    • @RP, That phrase has been in contracts for many years now. It is nothing new. I believe Conde Nast was the first to put that term in a contract and that was in the early 90’s. And when a photographer refused to sign it, they said “ok, we’ll give you the other contract.

      • @Debra Weiss, The motion picture industry has been using those words well before the ’90s.

        “… in any and all media, now known and hereafter devised.” First came movies, than TV, then VHS/Betamax, then DVDs. The lawyers have all the bases covered — and have for years.

      • @Debra Weiss,

        That is the key — refuse to sign the goddamn contract. That’s the ONLY way to stop the erosion of these rights. I’m amazed that the magazines don’t just assume that their contract photographers are going to be handed one of these obscene contracts, and that they don’t have a plan on how to deal with it, in advance of sending the photographer to the venue.

        Desperate photographers, doing anything to stab themselves in the eyes to ruin the industry for themselves and everyone else behind them — that’s what happens when somebody signs one of these contracts. It will continue to erode until what? Until the contract simply demands for you to shoot the concert and then immediately hand over the CF cards right on the spot? What will you do then? What if the venue handed out serial number CF cards at the start of a show and demanded them back? Would you shoot it then?

        This is an industry in severe trouble. But it’s like that “frog in the boiling water” scenario — it’s happening so slowly that no one really realizes how bad it’s getting.

        Live concert photographers need to band together like those “Business Week 12” did, a few years ago, (that evolved into EP). They banded together and refused to work for Business Week. Live photographers should do the same — it’s not a union, just an informal social arrangement, where you spread the word to say FUCK YOU to unfair contracts, and refuse to sign. Simply walk out. But it’ll take cooperation of all major live photographers, and that’s something you’ll never get.

        A world of hurt. And getting worse.

        If YOU don’t stand up for your rights, no one else will. It’s up to YOU.

        • @Reader, I must disagree with your statement that what is happening is happening slowly. It is happening very quickly. Not that there weren’t warning signs for years – there were. And the majority of the photo community chose to stick their heads in the sand and ignore the very bright flashing lights. But photographers can’t be blamed for everything that is happening in the industry today. There are some forces at work that are beyond their control.

          Photographers have always been willing to take bad deals and unfortunately, regardless of how many say no to unfair contracts there will be dozens who are ready and willing to say yes. Many photographers do not feel that they are in the position to say no and are fearsome that they will not get the job and they are correct. The reality is that there are too many photographer whose work simply does not support a “no” response.

          Re: Business Week – it’s future is uncertain and if it does exist under new ownership, I doubt the contract will remain as is. And while what happened with those 12 photographers should be applauded, there were still many other publications at the time that did not revise their contract. I don’t believe what they did with Business Week could be done today. The pool is too big to choose from and the publications do not seem to be terribly concerned with quality. By publication, I am not referring to the Photo Editors. They have a very tough job.) Besides, photographers are not going to band together regardless of which area they are working. They have always taken great pride in their lone wolf mentality and it has done everything but serve them well.

          These groups and their management companies do not care a bit about the photographer. It is the photographer’s job to care about his/her well being. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where actions are motivated by moral inclination. Most react only when their livelihoods are threatened.

  20. Read this. It should help clear up a few misconceptions. Namely, you can display, publish, sell images of someone without a release or permission. Rules change for advertising and harmful uses however:

    Also: It’s understandable that performing artists want as much control as possible over their image. But, they should have usage agreements, not all-out contracts that say “you have NO rights to your own creative work.”

    A photograph is a visual depiction of someone. A song might be written “about” someone, thereby creating an audio depiction of that person. So, if a band writes a song about, or mentioning, a real (recognizable) person, do they lose all rights to that work?

    Imagine if an artist wrote a song about a friend or love interest, and that friend/love interest demanded to OWN all rights to that song. Wouldn’t that be stupid?

  21. Unfortunately these type of rights grab contracts are all too common within the music industry.

    The problems with these “agreements” as I see them are:

    1. No right of negotiation on the agreements – if you don’t sign you don’t shoot (and therefore don’t get paid by your client)
    2. Expecting the photographer to give undertakings on behalf of a publication
    3. Limiting ownership and rights of what the photographer can do with the photographs
    4. Many of these releases force photographers to sign over the copyright to their photos even though the entity wanting the copyright is not the client of the photographer and they are not paying the photographer for their work
    5. Interfering with contractual arrangements between the photographer and their client
    6. Photographers generally do not receive copies of the releases in advance; they are generally presented at the venue when you turn up to shoot the show.

    More on this topic and a number of releases from artists such as Coldplay, Foo Fighters and The White Stripes can be seen at

  22. so there will be 10,000 shots spread across facebook, myspace, and emails from the “fans shots” by midnight that the whole world can see, and they want to hammer down on the few pros in the pit ? they should be grateful. sign nothing.

  23. let them make their own photos, sing, dance,promote …….and fuck themselfs!!!!

  24. I have been presented with something similar to this only once, and was fully prepared (and had the backing of the publication) to walk away if they insisted on the transfer of copyrights.

    I only get paid for results (so I would have been turning down a check also) but while I don’t expect to make additional dollars from another publication needing one of my shots, I won’t give up the option that I might in order to shoot one show.

    At the level of the top bands, whether they get a photo (or write-up) in the paper the next day is no big deal, and won’t help sell tickets.

    However, the opening act might have been able to use the photo in the paper.

    There was a concert that I shot last year where the headline act refused to be photographed, but the two opening acts were fine.

    So all the photos were of them and the main act was only mentioned in passing.

  25. Paul Natkin, a friend of mine and a 35 year veteran music photographer has been writing about the music photography industry in great detail including multiple posts on this topic and on the three song rule at

    Paul does more than just write about it, however. He talks with artists about the restrictions that have been imposed and sometimes, they get changed. I know from personal experience that was the case this past July 4, when photographers were allowed to shoot the entire Buddy Show at the Taste of Chicago.

    It just seems there has to be a better way for everyone involved.

  26. I staff shoot for a big organization that is increasingly bureaucratic. So I passed a similar contract through legal, who knowing the suits are becoming more power hungry told me that any such contract would have to be signed by an executive vice president, not the lowly peasant photographer, and it would take four to six weeks to get it signed (which is true). So tell them that, the lawyer suggested and see if they let you shoot. They did.

  27. I was a rock photographer and I also worked as a photo editor at Rolling Stone and for several rock book publishers. That contract is appalling and I am offended by it.
    Perhaps photographers specifically shooting on assignment can check with their photo editors beforehand, and ask the publication to make sure there is no such contract being demanded. That way a hapless photographer isn’t put on the spot when arriving at a shoot, and forced to either sign the contract or tell his or her editor he came home emptyhanded.
    No photographer should ever be mistreated in that way and forced to make that decision.

  28. Sign nothing – thats easy to say. It works only if You can afford to go home without photos. Otherwise You have not much choice.

    You can’t even check if that’s required before, as You get accreditation from show organiser, and he don’t have to be aware that accredited photographers wont be able to shoot, if they don’t sign something that band’s manager will demand just as the show starts.

    About transferring copyright.. No comment.

    • @pawel,

      With all due respect, my advice is to take that next check and invest it training in a new segment of photography, because if you’re really needing that check from live photography to eat, the time is ticking before the game is over. Because there are ten guys behind you just ready to stick a shiv in your back, and sign any contract, even a Copyright Transfer. It’s a segment of the marketplace that’s quickly collapsing in on itself, due to desperation, or lack of education about business. It might be a fun place to be on a Saturday night, but don’t confuse that with a venue to make a living. Time to move on up the food chain before Contracts like this are commonplace. It’s not the bands’ fault either, it’s simply business — if you could get a roomfull of photographers to give you the images for free, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

      Time to move on. This segment of the market is now saturated, (as are many others).

      • @Reader, I must say i mostly agree. It can’t be allowed to become common practice. And I’m sure it would be easy to tear the paper, and head back home on common assigment.
        About copyright transfer – in my country full transfer of copyright is not possible, so such agreement is not vaild by law. Here, only interest can be transferred, which itself in this case is absurd, politely speaking.
        What i meant is – what can be done really? If major magazines won’t back up photographers in some broad action – most likely nothing.
        They would have to realize, that it’s bit similiar to them signing contract with major label, that would rip them of their intellectual property.

        • @pawel, quoting:

          “They would have to realize, that it’s bit similiar to them signing contract with major label, that would rip them of their intellectual property.”

          … But what you’re missing here is, even though they might realize that it’s similar to the record company doing that to them, they’ll STILL do it to YOU. It’s amazing what the human brain can justify, (if the advantage is to its own favor). Even if they realize, they’ll find some way to justify it, by blaming it on their lawyers, or their publicists, or whatever.

          Please do not be naive. Stand your ground, or better yet, get out of that segment of the business. The desperation factor, (or ego factor), of many photographers in that segment will soon make it so that there’s no way to profit. And without some profit, your rent is someday going to come due. And then what?

          • @Reader,
            You seem to believe, that only purpose of these agreements is to rip You off.. And only way on earth do deal with that is to reject assignments one after another.

            Call me naive, but maybe if there was serius music photograper’s association, that would stand for professional standards, it could openly negotiate with artists managers on that matter, greatly improving the situation, at least to some. This idea might not be something new, but did anybody actually try to invite serious editors, and music photographers, to check their interest in discussion about it?

  29. The same thing happened here in Copenhagen at the Britney Spears concert. Her management wanted full copyright and full control over which pictures were used where. The result was that all the major and minor newspapers didn’t show up to the concert and no pictures were published. I think the same thing happended in Stockholm some days after.

    se (in danish sorry)

  30. Sadly, this seems to be “normal” at bigger shows here in Europe. They even make Reuters and Keystone photogs sign these chits, even though they’re not entitled to sign anything in the name of the company they work for.

  31. What bands like this are doing is just an immoral and unethical property rights grab. It’s worth fighting.
    I toured with the Pretenders for several days in early 1980, taking photos for Meloday Maker, a British music newspaper. The Pretenders were great–they didn’t demand a contract like that or any such thing. I took a lot of photos, and when the band was in town I sent a stack of prints to them via a friend who was going to the concert. The band thanked me for the prints and asked, can we use some of them in the tour book? I said sure, please, use anything you like. They picked several, which I was happy to let them use with no charge. Okay, it sounds very informal–it was. They were nice people and I was eager to send them pictures if they wanted to use them.

  32. WWJMD?
    What would Jim Marshall do?

  33. I shot Jane’s a month ago and they had no contract. I had to shoot Peter Frampton last week and they sent me a contract in advance. On it, it said I had to supply them with copies of shots and they could use them for free. I said no. Most of the times you do not get them till you get to the venue. If they have a rights grab, I first cross it out and then ask the venue for a copy. They hand it into the tour, sometimes it get passed and sometimes it doesn’t, so then I do not shoot…..

  34. Professional and most college sports retain tight control of the images fr their events. They even have their contract photographers, example NFL films. If bands are so concerned with their image let them do the same and hire their own photographers? That’s what they’re trying to do with these contracts anyway. Don’t sign them.

  35. It’s common to run into these contracts at shows now a days. Sometimes you dont run into them. Only a select few try to grab rights.

    Some try to control ability to syndicate. No Doubt had a form that stated you could syndicate the images but management has to approve the images to be syndicated before you do.

    Dave Matthews has a form that says you can syndicate for editorial but not make posters and other merch from the images.

    Frankly I dont have a problem signing something that says I will not mass produce merchandise from these photos. That to me is completely reasonable.

    Also to the folks that think the bands you’re shooting have any clue about these contracts, some do and some dont. It’s usually something done by the artist team. Most artist you’re shooting dont even realize that photographers are submitted to a 3 song limit now a days.

  36. Hey, I m very glad to sign over the copyright to my photographs — in exchange for the copyright to their music.”

  37. ‘Rights-grab’ contracts are getting more prevalent. Cheap Trick had one with similar wording (they own all you shoot, you release all copyright to them and have to give them high res copies of everything). I laughed out loud and said ‘no way’. I hope all photogs are walking away from these things… Unless you can add the verbage that you own copyright to all of their songs that enter your ears, they are transferring the copyright to you by playing songs in your presence, and are entitled to all profits, past and future. Ha! Sounds like a fair trade-off to me!

  38. If I wanted to use a song from a band on my website because it helped my site and served as good publicity for my photos, would these bands sign over the rights to me for that purpose. Additionally, I would want to control other places the song is used because i don’t want anybody else to benefit from the song.

    Photo rights and song rights are based on the same model and those PR people have to be told that in no uncertain terms. They should respect the photographer the same way they expect their musicians to be respected.

  39. I have been asked to sign a contract like this for another well-known rock band. It was just moments before the show, I was already in the pit, and I simply but politely said, “No. I’m sorry, but I would never sign an agreement like that.” I fully expected them to ask me to leave, but they just said okay and I went on to do the job I was there to do, my ownership of copyright intact. I don’t blame them for trying and appreciate their understanding when I declined.

    Additionally I was also presented with a similar contract after an editorial portrait shoot. In this case the contract came 2 months after the shoot had taken place. As before, I explained that it was not my policy to sign over the copyright to my images and I wish that they had presented me with the request prior to the shoot taking place. In this case the conversation took place over emails and I never heard back on the subject again, but I have since worked with the publicists and their clients, have a great relationship with them, and they have never asked me to sign anything like that again.

    I might also add that I am still developing in my career, and a part of me was scared out of my pants to say no to these people, fearful that I may have to start looking at a career change. But I am proud of myself for sticking to my guns, remembering what I have learned from sites such as this one, and dealing with it in a manner that did not alienate valuable relationships. I know now that it is okay, and not career-ending, to say no.

  40. […] in Brisbane.  The contract is absolutely unfair on photographers, that’s putting it kindly. A Photo Editor has touched on this […]

Comments are closed for this article!