Meredith Would Like To Sublicense Your Works

- - Contracts, Magazines

I heard from an agent who sent me this clause from a “non-modifiable” agreement that Meredith Corporations pushes which basically says they can sell the images of photographers who shoot for them to third parties for anything they choose, including advertising. We’re curious if anyone has gotten it removed or if people are just saying eff-it and shooting for them anyway? After seeing this the agent declined the shoot.

b) Creator further hereby grants to Meredith a non-exclusive ongoing, unlimited, non-cancellable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use and sublicense the Works, including, but not limited to, the rights: i) to reproduce the Works or portions thereof in all forms, works and derivative works; ii) to edit, abridge, adapt, translate, or modify or alter the Works; and iii) to publish or authorize publication of the Works in any media now known or hereafter developed, throughout the World.

There Are 51 Comments On This Article.

  1. I would think that accepting such a provision in a contract would not be in the photographer’s best interest. I’d be to curious to hear from photographers who are okay with it just to understand their perspective on the subject.

  2. I’m sure they’ll find someone, since they do have photos. I’d decline it as well. sounds like the old, “we’ll pay you once, then keep any money we collect for any further use” scam. might be OK, if they actually would PAY real money for the photos initially, but they probably want them on the cheap too…

  3. Jenny Altwood

    I had a terrible experience shooting for Meredith. They did not have a photo editor for the magazine I shot for and the art director was very inexperienced and frankly almost violently aggressive. I ended up declining as well. I don’t recommend working for them under the present conditions.

  4. I’ve had great experiences shooting for them. It does require some tenacity and flexibility, but I was able to negotiate out the majority of the offensive language in the contract. I was also able to ask for more money for the lines in the contract that they insisted upon keeping. Sublicensing was not one of the terms stuck.
    There have been other magazines that at the outset offered horrible contracts and bad pay (the kind that makes one’s hair stand on end), but we were able to find common ground through patient, open dialogue.
    In the past I’ve walked away from things that I might have been able to negotiate with a little effort. Live and learn.

  5. This is actually a pretty common clause in a lot of editorial contracts these days. I just ask to change it to say “any additional usage requires photographer’s approval.” Most clients are ok with this. If they’re not, try to get a handle on how the 3rd party licensing may play out. Then negotiate from there.

    Just because it’s written into a contract doesn’t mean you have to agree to it. Most of the time (unless there are cost consultants in the mix) a contract is just a starting point for negotiation.

  6. This is outrageous. We’re expected to have access to the latest equipment, a printed book and ipad, pay other people to look at our work (paid portfolio review), spend thousands on promotion.. and now give up any rights we have to make money off of our own images. Most of the mags don’t pay didly squat anymore on top of it. How much more can we take?? I’m not going to sign away my rights. If this become standard in the industry I’ll wait tables instead.

  7. It’s a given that everything is negotiable, but they are coming to the table with an offensive item from the get-go. Everything you produce for them they own and have the right to resell. That’s starting off on the wrong foot and is adversarial.

  8. Its true, if you don’t sign it you can’t shoot for them.

    The only exception might be if you are such an important photographer to one of their magazines, and already have a contract with them, and you say ‘fuck off,’ and they come groveling back to you after some time of realizing how important you are to their publication, and you can keep shooting under the old contract even though all the other suckers had to sign the new one. True story. Of course this only applies to a handful of people in the industry (the best of the best, who have the most fearless agent, who don’t need the money), but it has happened before. There are always exceptions. If you can be one, rock on, otherwise sign the contract if you really desperately want to shoot for Meredith.

  9. Shooting editorial is my bread and butter and, frankly, Meredith is not the only company that has these new contracts that allow total access to your images. Check out American Express Publishing’s contract. The contracts are impossible to read and use terms like “any media now and throughout the world”. If you cross things off you might as well set aside half your day to spend on the phone with the legal department. And perhaps that is a bit easier for someone who has an agent that can do the dirty work for them. For some people turning your head and simply walking away isn’t an option. Sticking to your guns is admirable and necessary, but it doesn’t pay the rent. Many of us are stuck between a rock and a hard place and are struggling to find the right answers. And by the way, I think most photo editors (with some exceptions) are completely understanding of their photographer’s plights. The people I work with at Meredith are wonderful.

  10. I’m with Rhea (5) and Jamie (6): As bad as it reads it is open to alteration (even, I’ve learned, when the top of the contract says “the following cannot be altered”. ) The Photo Editor is often Ok to these kind of deletions in the contract as long as you discuss and agree. Especially if they have already found you, discussed the assignment and are now at the point of paperwork. They have a reason for choosing you. Hold fast. Also remember that you need them to initial your strike-outs to be legal but that initialing does not always happen.

    • @kevsteele, Agreed, a negotiation isn’t over till they kick you out of the building. Many times i have been offered less than stellar agreements, but with patient negotiation and discussion usually both parties to can reach an amicable agreement. The trick is to not become instantly antagonistic, take a deep breath and make them remember that you have a skill and insight they want, that in the end is why the even contacted you in the first place. And good point about the strike outs, a point I think may often overlook.

  11. So, if you submit something for editorial and then they relicense it to someone for advertising but no model release exists since its intended use was editorial, who gets sued when someone recognizes themselves in the ad?

      • @Rhea, I’ve submitted several images to several publications (Time, Conde Naste, etc.) that ran where they did not ever request nor did I send releases. Also, whenever submitting images to a publication where I don’t have a release, I confirm with them that it is for editorial use only and that I do not have a release—no one has ever rejected an image in that situation.

        • @Dana, My experience has almost always been the opposite. And for my own sake I would prefer to have one, You never know who may want to relicense something down the road for any number of uses.

  12. meredith shooter

    They have multiple contracts. They will send you a grab all initially. I asked to change things and then they sent me a first rights contract with better licensing.

    They have a more aggressive contract but they also have some.of the highest budgets in editorial. $750/ day plus no balking at the price of fees that a lot.of. other mags ask me to come down on.

    Similar.situation to forbes.contract ep negotiated
    Have shot.for family circle.and ready made.

  13. I recently had a similar stunt pulled on me by Publishing Group of America…

    “(b) the non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide right thereafter to use, reproduce, distribute, publish, perform, sublicense, modify, create derivative works and otherwise exploit the Photograph(s) in any manner, including without limitation for marketing and promotional purposes, and in any media now existing or hereafter developed.”

    They asked me to sign this contract literally 15 minutes before I was out the door for the shoot… I was able to negotiate some of the offensive language out, but not without MUCH hassle. Never again…. they lost me forever as a vendor.

  14. a reader sent me this and said I could post here:

    I’ve shot for Meredith. While that is what I received initially, I did negotiate a very different contract in the end. We went back and forth for a bit – but in the end we got something that everyone was happy with. No syndication allowed on their part, but they could use the image in the issue of the magazine and all other forms of the magazine and to promote the magazine.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had a serious shoot fall apart when I asked to negotiate a contract – which I’ve done with numerous major publishers- almost always after being told that legal wouldn’t allow any changes. I’m reasonable and I understand why they need protection -but I also explain that even though I trust them specifically, I have no guarantee they’ll be at the company in five or ten years.

    I know a lot of photographers are afraid of the legal arena, or worse just choose to ignore it. The only thing I like less than unfair contracts are people who freely sign them and then bitch later that the terms are unfair.

    • @A Photo Editor, This has been my experience with magazines as well (though I haven’t worked with Meredith). I would say more often than not the contracts I receive have language that is too broad, and often contradicts what was discussed in the original discussion of fees. Usually there’s a bit of back and forth but almost always is resolvable.

      It’s important for every photographer to realize that this kind of sweeping, over-reaching usage in contracts is very common, but also that it’s common to negotiate and change the objectionable language.

      When you’re first contacted about the assignment, and fee is discussed, be sure to talk about usage at that point, ie, “this is for one time, first exclusive, right?” etc.

  15. Third Party sales is a non starter. It’s best to tell them to move on as the agent did in my opinion, unless of course they pay the price of a copyright buyout, which essentially, is what they’re demanding.

  16. I got the same clause in a Hearst contract…. I asked that it be removed, which they did without any argument at all. I think everyone at the magazines know it’s fairly egregious, so they don’t put up a fight. I’m sure it came from way up the corporate chain.

    • @Chris Kilkus,

      This, plus, from a practical standpoint most of the works generated for Meredith’s publications won’t have resale value to them.

      I’m certain the edit staff is also annoyed that legal included the clause because it’s a waste of their time dealing with contract strikeouts, or a ready photographer rejects the shoot and they have to find someone else.

  17. “…throughout the World.”

    Anybody else think they’re going to get into trouble when they try to license any of the work under this clause for off planet use? Or even just storage off planet? I’m sure that Google will have servers in orbit or on the moon within a few decades. Seriously if you really want all rights you should be using the phrase “throughout the Universe.”

    • The more forward-thinking buyers are already asking for rights throughout the entire universe, while some throw artists a bone and license for “the known universe.”

      Clearly I prefer the latter, as I can negotiate additional licensing fees when we discover sentient life in some heretofore unknown galaxy. It’s all about the space-Benjamins, baby.

  18. I’ve signed about 20 contracts like this and heavily edited every single one.

    It’s hard for me not to take it all very personally. It’s not, I keep telling myself that, but I do get more worked up about it than just about anything else in my life.

    The lawyers at the publisher write the contract to benefit the magazine. I write or modify these contracts to benefit me. If there is a paragraph they include to indemnify them, I put one in requiring they indemnify me. If it says payment net 60, I change it to 30, and so on.

    After I cross out, modify, and add to the contract, the photo editor will usually turn around a revised version so fast it’s as though it was already prepared, hmmm.

    Here are two paragraphs from the Blinkbid T&C’s(a great program for estimating and invoicing). They should be pasted into every contract you sign.

    “Limitation of liability: Client shall indemnify, defend and hold harmless Licensor and Licensor’s representatives from any and all claims, liabilities, damages and expenses of any nature, including attorney’s fees, investigation costs and court costs arising from or relating to Client’s direct or indirect use of the image, or in connection with Licensor’s reliance on any representations, instructions, information or materials provided or approved by Client. Licensor shall not be liable for general, consequential, incidental or special damages arising from this agreement, the service rendered, the images or any acts of omission by Licensor regardless of the circumstances of such omissions.

    Release: Licensor does not warrant that he or she has secured any underlying or third party rights in the image unless Licensor submits a separate release signed by a third party model, property owner, trademark owner or any other owner of any underlying right. If no such release is submitted, no release exists for any underlying rights in any image nor are any such rights secured.”

    Also, remember… IT’S NOT THE MAGAZINE’S CONTRACT. It is the contract between you and the magazine. It should be a collaboration that fairly represents your working relationship together. The sending of the contract by the magazine is the beginning of the discussion, not the end.

  19. I think it is quite apparent that the majority of contracts sent to first time or infrequent photographers used by a publication contain the grab as much as possible clauses.

    I don’t remember who above said it, but all contracts are negotiable especially if they are presented with short notice prior to the shoot. I think the situation falls in the favor of the photographer since he/she is at the helm at that point. I think it forces negotiation, whereas if it is a problem with plenty of time before a shoot should happen a pub can dump one photographer for another who is willing to sign their rights away.

    • alsoaphotoeditor

      You’re so right! Photo editors can’t openly talk about the fact that their are 2 contracts or which clauses they’ll except cross outs on. Lots of cross outs raises a big flag and can peg you as someone who’s “difficult” to work with. I’ve seen that happen with several of my favorite photographers. I’m feeling that a little note “to be negotiated” can sound less problematic on areas of contracts that aren’t acceptable.

  20. Yeah, they have 2 contracts. They wait to see if you fall for the bad one first to see if you are that dumb…

    When presented with the bad contract on a recent assignment I responded with this…

    “After reviewing the contract you sent me I cannot accept the terms and conditions of the contract as they are extremely unfair. I simply do not accept “work for hire” contracts, and none of my other national editorial clients (Time, Inc, Conde Nast, Wenner Media, Rodale or Hearst) ask me to sign such contracts. I have done actually shot for another Meredith, Corp. Magazine and a couple of years ago and was asked to sign a “one-time editorial use only” contract not a WFH contract. So I am bit confused why ________ magazine would have a contract like this. I have a contract that I use for national editorial clients who don’t have contracts and have attached a version to this email so you can review it.

    I would really love to shoot this assignment so please get back to me about the contract situation so that we can move forward.”

    Obviously they gave me a different contract to sign and it worked out fine. But it’s really disgusting and condescending to have people ask this of you. Love the business side of things…

  21. jeff in Chicago

    Hmm… I do not shoot for this market, more local designers and corporate gigs, but I’m thinking…

    How exactly should I handle a possible gig where it seems the publication is attracted to me more for my apparent gullability than my aesthetic or skills…..

    I can imagine the stress this may put on mid-career photo editors, who know there’s a better way, but their whole ship is getting wobbly…

    This all reminds me of a negotiating saying my dad once told me…

    If Their name in front of Your name looks better than Your name in front of Their name, be ready for a bumpy ride…. or go elsewhere…

  22. I have regularly added the phrase “for a fee to be negotiated” to similar clauses from other magazine publishers, indicating that I am willing to allow republication, but only if the price is right.

    Needless to say I have never had them ever republish any images.

  23. I saw a similar contract with a local glossy city magazine… and for all the over-reaching rights grabbing, they offered a whopping $20 an hour. No thank you. a 16 year old baby sitter makes more. The sad thing is that they hire photographers for every issue… some of the photographers even have brick and mortar studios and the overhead that goes with it. How they can survive working for such a rate is beyond me.

  24. alsoaphotoeditor

    Thank you SO MUCH for addressing this issue!!! I’ve been involved with these unfair contracts for years and as a photo editor who cares about the rights of photographers I’ve felt like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m familiar with both American Express Publishing and Meredith’s contracts and I think it’s so important for photographers and agents to (at the very least) cross out the clauses that give companies the right to sell images to 3rd parties. This goes hand-in-hand with the push toward digital and I think it’s grossly unfair. I’m my experience it’s coming from their corporate divisions who seemly could care less about the quality of the images in their magazines and who are looking for ways to make money off of what they consider their “digital assets”. In my experience, even just inserting a note that says “to be negotiated” goes a long way in getting contracts approved. I’ve been shocked at the number of reps who just sign contracts on behalf of their photographer without changing that clause. I hope all of the photographers who read this post will make sure to change that clause (or make sure their reps are!). If everyone does it I’m confident it will send a message that no one will accept those crazy terms and magazines don’t exist without great photography!

  25. no one has to do anything or sign anything to pay the rent. there are literately hundreds of thousands of businesses big and small who need photography, and who pay just the same as any magazine. the sooner we start knocking on their door, and servicing them, and the sooner we let go of the “vanity” need to sell our soul to “corporate” magazines just so we can see our pic in the cheap klieg-lights, the sooner they will change their ways. The glamour days of print magazines and their splendid golden eggs are done. stick a rusted-fork in print. honestly. why is it still an issue?

    there are hundred ways to survive, and pay rent, doing photography for a hundred venues. magz are just a grain of sand in the sea. please!

  26. This has been an amazing education in many ways and I appreciate those who have responded.
    I’m going to apologize up front for this question as I’ve had limited and honestly pretty straight forward negotiations when working with image contracts/rights with newspapers.

    Is there a current resource to learn more about the different levels of contracts that are being used as a standard practice in the industry today by stock and news agencies?

    It appears from the outside that it’s whatever you can get away with?

  27. I have two rules in business.

    Rule #1, don’t sign anyone else’s contract. I’m the service provider, I’m the one getting paid, I’m the one most likely to get screwed if something goes wrong. You sign my contract.

    Rule #2, don’t work for anyone who tells you how much they pay. If you’re not providing health care, drug plan and a retirement package, you don’t get to tell me what I charge for my work, that’s the point of being self employed. If you want to be told what you get for your work, get a job at the mall. Try telling any other tradesperson how much you’ll pay them and you’ll get one of two results, a. they take the money and do a crap job out of spite or b. they tell you to go find another sucker.

    Any client / customer who insists on one or both of the above is probably either not worth having or about to become not worth having.

    Back when I was green and naive, I got burned by a huge publisher when I signed one of these contracts and they ran the images then uploaded them to Getty as rights managed work of their own. Now, every time I see one of these images in an ad or editorial piece, I get pissed, knowing they’ve made more money off the images than I got paid to shoot them and that I’ll never be able to monetize this work.

  28. Jock Bradley

    I’ve run into similar contracts. A polite quick email to the photo editor letting them know that we need to speak about the contract has always brought a much better deal. I’ve come to believe that it is the legal department writing these contracts and not the photo editor.

    Rules that I run my business by:
    1. I don’t do work for hire and I don’t sell my stock photos in such a manner.
    2. I charge for internet usage.
    3. If the contract starts off as a piece of crap and can’t be negotiated, then I walk away.
    4. Photo credits instead of payment don’t buy groceries. I don’t care what the magazine is.

  29. I’ve been down the road with Meredith, and while they were formerly receptive to modifications to their agreement my understanding is that this is no longer the case. In this case, no modifications does not mean ‘cross out what you don’t like’. It means NO MODIFICATIONS. I have a lot of experience with editorial contracts and have generally found people open to a dialogue, but apparently, there are some new people ‘upstairs’ at Meredith, and they want the rights to sell your pictures to third parties. You retain the copyright, but you give them full rights to sublicense to third parties.

    In terms of the question about not having a release b/c the use is editorial and who gets sued, you might want to review your editorial contracts. Many of them stipulate that you must provide signed releases for talent, property, etc., and that you are liable should legal issues arise if you cannot produce the release.

    It’s a pretty black and white issue – as long as people agree to the terms of the contract, there will be no reason for any consideration to be given to the issue by the publishing houses.

    Wake up people – the editorial marketplace is rapidly changing and the contracts are changing right along with it. Read the agreement, ask questions, negotiate something that works for you, and if you can’t reach solid ground, WALK AWAY.

  30. Meredith Shooter

    Freeda is right. They no longer have a second contract. Those of us who signed the old one and refused to sign the new one were presented with an ultimatum about 18 months ago: sign the new contract, or stop working for us. It is my fault that Meredith represented over 80% of my work at that time, but I had no choice.

    While they do have the right to sell the images for advertising, there is little evidence much of that is happening, not because they don’t want to, but because the images are so geared toward editorial use (interiors and food) no advertiser would really benefit from them. I’ve referred a few manufacturers who contacted me about using images I had shot that I clearly did not have the rights to sell, and they weren’t even interested in selling a one-time usage to a manufacturer for a few thousand dollars.

    • @Meredith Shooter,

      Wow, that’s just crazy. Here they are hoarding images as ‘assets’ but are clearly not organized enough to make use of them. Further proof that it is the lawyers behind the change, with little regard for any practical application.

  31. I hate the way magazines are bullying professionals into a corner. All of this because of micro stock photo agencies looking to make a quick profit to the long term detriment of the industry

  32. I think the only issue here is how much they’re willing to pay, which it doesn’t look as though that is spelled out. If the images are for sale, let them buy them if they want to buy them. It beats having to track future usage across “the known universe.” Now if they’re not paying accordingly, that’s a different story. But I have a buyout rate that I charge advertising clients who want to have full control of the images, and if anybody wants to pay it, or negotiate OK. Sell them, and move on to the next shoot. What’s the word on the day rate here, is it not up to standards for full rights buyouts?

    • Meredith Shooter

      @Karl NY, They are paying higher rates than most editorial assignments, and they always have because they always bought out editorial use for images. They have so many other titles that pick up images later for further editorial use, it made sense for them to buy the editorial use. I never had a problem with that, because the chances of selling an interior shot to another magazine are slim. Things are outdated very quickly, and likely the products in those shots would not be the same advertisers that buy ad space in another magazine, so no other magazine would want it. Plus the ease for me of not having to manage all those rights down the road, I was happy taking a higher rate in exchange for the editorial buyout. The problem is these new rights were not accompanied by a rate bump. In this economy they were asking photographers to drop rates, and really scaling back the amount of shooting so photographers needed work. Then they made this new agreement an ultimatum to work with the company. If I had the ability to just say no, I would have. It may not be fair, but it is business.

  33. I just crossed out a few lines like this in a contract from a client last week…I haven’t read the comments above but hope when I do that people are crossing them out as well.

  34. I am coming to this thread a little late, but found it after being approached by a Meredith photo editor today. She indicated to me that they were now requiring full copyright transfer for all work created during an assignment. I have not shot for Meredith in the past and have not seen the contract. I explained to the editor the importance of the copyright model to my business and offered to negotiate a license that would meet their needs, but was told that copyright transfer was non-negotiable. The argument she used was that no one would probably want to reuse the images anyway because they were specific to a particular story. I have never sold my copyright and don’t plan to begin now. I urge newcomers to the business to do the same.