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Are Bands Really Asking Concert Photographers To Hand Over Their Copyrights?

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Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 5:30 AM
click to enlarge Timothy Norris' shot of Dave Grohl at a Foo Fighters performance in 2007 - TIMOTHY NORRIS
  • Timothy Norris
  • Timothy Norris' shot of Dave Grohl at a Foo Fighters performance in 2007

See also our review of Foo Fighters at The Forum, 10/13/11

The Foo Fighters perform at The Forum tonight and Friday, and while fans may be giddy, some concert photographers are less enthused. Our sister paper City Pages in Minneapolis recently published an article lamenting -- and boycotting -- the band's draconian photo release policies, which demand that photographers sign away the rights to their shots, giving the band's management legal control over which photos can be published.

Photo releases at shows are nothing new. They're usually required, with many simply defining when the photographer can shoot and whether he or she can use flash, along with third party restrictions and similar basic use rights. But a number of what are being called "rights grab" releases have begun using ominous and intimidating jargon that effectively ask photographers to relinquish all rights to their images, forever.

The release for Band of Horses' current tour, for example, strips photographers of the right to use their photos anywhere, in any format, without management's consent. Or, as they put it, "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 therefore." [sic]

Such releases have inspired a strong backlash in the concert photography community.

"These contracts are exploitative and unjustified. I believe a lot of photographers are getting screwed over," says Florida-based photojournalist Radko Keleman, who started a Facebook group to keep tabs on these types of releases and provide a forum for photographers. In addition to being disrespectful to their art, Keleman says these agreements make it much harder for a photographer to make a living. "This is like Occupy Wall Street. It's about the rich taking from the poor."

"Photographers should stop shooting artists with these releases, period," he continues. "Then when they don't see any photographers at their show, they're gonna wonder why they don't have any other media coverage."

This type of protest has worked. In fact, Janet Jackson and Ke$ha revoked their strict contracts this summer after being met with strong opposition and boycotts from outlets across the country. Yet the Foo Fighters' photo waiver, which you can see here, remains one of the strictest around.

The band says they're trying to prevent scams. "The language [of the contracts] might be severe but that really isn't the intent. It's just to protect the Foo Fighters from having their image sold and licensed without their knowledge or control," a Foo Fighters publicist told City Pages.

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