Foo Fighters photo waiver one of the severest in the industry: Here's why we didn't sign

Categories: Gimme News
davegrohlsketch.jpg
Author's rendering of Dave Grohl. Is this what we want music journalism to look like?
If you've seen our Foo Fighters review today, you'll notice that the only photos we ran were teeny-tiny cell phone shots taken from our reviewer's seats. This wasn't for lack of of a photographer on our part, or a lack of effort: we refused to shoot the show because of an oppressive set of terms laid out by the band's management. 

And it's a symptom of an ongoing battle between major touring acts and freelance photographers that's spiraling out of control. 

In this instance, prolific Gimme Noise photographer Erik Hess was assigned to shoot Foo Fighters at the Xcel Energy Center last night (you can see his photos of openers Rise Against here). As with other large tours, the band's management had the venue send out a contract for our photographer to sign before we would be approved for a photo pass. But unlike most other large tours, this contract went well above and beyond the usual "I agree to shoot this band for this publication" fare and veered into creative and editorially destructive territory.

In the interest of full disclosure, you can read the contract for yourself below -- but for those of you not fluent in legalese, I'll summarize the most blatantly overreaching parts. 

From our perspective, there are two parts of this contract that are problematic. The first requires "approval of the photos," a phrase we've seen crop up on more and more photo contracts recently. Basically, the management company is creating a situation where they can legally control which photos we are allowed to publish. This kind of phrasing sets a dangerous precedent for publications. If we're allowing Dave Grohl's management to pick and choose which photos they'd like to see of him in the press, what's to stop them from thinking that, in the future, they could ask for control over the concert review itself? 

Janet Jackson tried it recently, so it isn't as crazy as it may sound. 

Luckily for journalists everywhere, Ms. Jackson's contract was met with such opposition by outlets nationwide that she eventually abandoned it all together, but not before stirring up a new wave of debate over this ongoing issue.

The second sketchy part of the contract is becoming more and more common, and is more harmful to freelance entertainment photography as a profession: The management company wants to own all photos taken of their client from the moment the photographer's shutter clicks. This goes far beyond the pale of what is usually asked in these contracts and strips the photographer of any ownership or rights in regards to their work. The contract even goes so far as to say that, if requested, the photographer must march down to the U.S. Copyright Offices and transfer ownership of the work over to the band. All for the ability to spend 10 minutes crammed into a photo pit in front of Dave Grohl.

While we have taken a stand against contracts like this -- when we've encountered harsh ones, like at this summer's Britney Spears show, we've flat-out refused to shoot the show -- many publications are still either blissfully unaware of these problems or choosing to sign the contracts and look the other way. For the Foo Fighters show, a few of the publications pushed back and were allowed to sign less oppressive contracts instead. Unfortunately, after much negotiating we were told that we had to sign it as-is to receive a photo pass, so we declined.

All of which indicates that the tour management knows they are asking too much with these contracts. This kind of abusive contract language seems specifically aimed at photographers who make their living as freelancers or those still amateur enough that they will sign away all their rights for a chance take pictures of a famous musician. 

But for those of us trying to get awesome shots of Dave Grohl and uphold our publication's editorial integrity, it puts us in an awkward spot.

To get a better sense for this trend of abusive photo contracts in the music industry, we conducted an informal poll of some of our colleagues and peers. Click over to page 2 to read their thoughts and see the contract that led us to decline shooting last night's Foo Fighters tour kick-off show.



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73 comments
Industri port
Industri port

Foo Fighters photo waiver one of the severest in the industry: Here's why we didn't sign 

Industriporte
Industriporte

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Martin Cameron
Martin Cameron

Foo Fighters' management's justification for the contracts -"Its just to protect the Foo Fighters from having their image sold and licensed without their knowledge or control."  Excuse me?  Whose image?  They are the photographers' images!  This is not a justification; it is a tantrum.  Grow up!  If you want fame and fortune having photographs of yourself in the public eye is essential - and once you have fame it is a natural consequence shared by politicians, TV presenters, actors and other 'celebrities'.  Having control of pictures of yourself is not needed and is certainly not a right.  If you are concerned about your public image then behave yourselves - like the rest of us have to.

I suspect that this is all about securing a financial interest in published pictures.  But, more important than the money is the journalistic integrity of the story behind the pictures. Some of the best pictures of great artists show them in full emotional flow with screwed up faces and tensed-up body language, maybe a little stoned or whisky-fueled.  Given the opportunity the artists' management would probably have held these images back and all we would have as a record of the music industry would be sanitised portraits of corporate puppets.

Rock and roll is supposed to be spontaneous, wild, edgy, dangerous - call it what you will.  Decent management would invite photographers to shoot the whole show and send the images to the world (after taking first pickings).  That way both the band and the photographers would benefit from the publicity generated. 

Jdeugenio
Jdeugenio

I personally would love to cram in the pit and watch Dave Grohl!  I agree that these legalities can be difficult for photographers but to stand up for the Foo Fighters I think if you actually had to deal with Dave you'd be happy to find he's a kind individual and the contract is just typical legalities.  Have you seen their tour rider?!  He allows fans to take and post photos at will and I'm sure its just because that's what they're supposed to do because you're a professional.  The sad thing is that even if all the photographers stand up for these contracts there is no stopping the kind of camera equipment you can bring into venues now, and fans will get these shots instead free of charge, so its a loose-loose on both sides.  Like the feedback you got on page two, some bands may be pretty hard core on these things, but the Foos aren't one of them.  The most strict Dave is with photographers involves the paparazzi and his family.

SEO Sydney
SEO Sydney

Awesome article. Thanks for sharing with us.

Gary Livingston
Gary Livingston

Also, this isn't aimed at freelancers like me. I make my money OWNING my rights to the images. Being able to syndicate them anywhere across media outlets requires proof of that copyright ownership.  

A staff photographer can get away signing this if the contract gives them specific permission to use the images in the publication they are working for.  They're still earning salary, they get to run images with the article for their publication, and they have nothing to worry about. Most of the rights to the images taken as a staff photographer are owned by the publication anyhow.

So, yeah, this is more aimed at staff and newbs that don't know what the hell they are signing away.

Gary Livingston
Gary Livingston

This is some fucking bullshit. Everyone, tweet @foofighters:disqus  and make sure they know we're calling them out on being a bunch of fuckheads.

Here, for easy copy/paste tweeting: What the fuck, guys? @foofightershttp://blogs.citypages.com/gimmenoise... You fight your music being in Glee but, you're cool with fucking photographers?

Photography
Photography

What the Foo Fighters are doing is not cool to photographers.  As the editor for an online publication, I encourage all of our photographers to never sign such an agreement.  Giving free photos with full rights to bands means photographers will never make a buck.  How does having a band own the rights to your shots and then giving them out to a dozen publications that are competing against your publication help you in any way?  It doesn't.  And they could be ending up on many sites where you will never receive credit or on the band's next album cover and you won't receive any compensation or credit, as if credit was good for anything anyway.  Also, by forking over ownership of the photos to the band, you cannot register the copyright which can be valuable if (I mean when) the photos are commercially infringed by third parties.  So again, I say take a hike to the Foo Fighters for working with their management to screw photographers.   Us pros who have thousands of dollars of maintained and insured camera equipment and know how to use it have better things to do with our time!

melanie
melanie

That photo pit should have been empty - I can't believe any photographer would have signed that! 

gabrielle geiselman
gabrielle geiselman

Thank you for writing this & taking a stand about this insanity.Its sad...in an era where bands are taking album cover shots with iphones that crap like this is also happening.It's the general state of the music business and it's f*cked.Labels screw bands and bands make power grabs anyway they can to try and make money.... Wonder what would happen if Foo Fighters came out to play and the pit was empty?This is just another reason unless your on my bucket list I won't shoot live anymore.And if someone handed me a contract like this I would walk.It's become crazy. Where is the common sense???Anyone who thinks photographers "get rich" publishing pictures of live bands is sniffing glue.Bands own their publishing.Photographers own their negs.The end.

Photography
Photography

F''k the Foo Fighters.  At this point the band must know what is going on and their management works for them.  Why even bother covering them at all?  Here is a look at the contract their pushing - http://www.musicphotographers....  - The Foo Fighter's music is alright but they ain't all that! Fk em!

Angie
Angie

*Its just to protect the Foo Fighters from having their image sold and licensed without their knowledge or control."*

It's illegal to license a photo of ANYONE, rockstars included, for a commercial use without a signed model release from the people in the photo.  There is no contract necessary to enforce this.  Professional photographers know this.  This would be like suddenly making everyone who drives sign a contract that says, "I will not drive over the speed limit"...which would be ridiculous.  The law is there, and if you drive, you know that.  And if you get caught, you pay, whether you claim you knew that or not.  Simple.

Jim Nelson
Jim Nelson

It is legal for news reportage. You do not need a model release of the President when he's giving a speech, and photographing an event, with the photos included as part of the documentation / reportage of that event, do not need model releases for its use in reportage. If they were to sell prints of it, or include it on merchandising, you need to have a release, but not for what most people shoot venues for.

Erik Hess
Erik Hess

You have a fundamental misunderstanding of the law and how it relates to privacy, a subject's "right to publicity" and relicensing of an image.

If the subject of a photo is in a public place and if the photograph is used for editorial purposes, no model release woud be required. Further complicating the topic is the status of a subject as a "celebrity" - ie, someone going on stage (no matter how large or small) and attempting to build an image.http://asmp.org/tutorials/freq...

Most relicensing requests I get (the vast majority) come from publications other than the one I originally shot the photo for, for editorial use. This is a legitimate and legal way to relicense an image and is a substantial part of a freelancer's archive's value. Granted, the almost all of these requests these days offer "full photo credit" and zero material compensation. That's a topic for another article though...

The second highest number of licensing requests I get come from bands, band managers, promoters and bar/venue owners. They are genrally looking to license images of themselves or the band that they represent for promotional use. These are also legitimate avenues to pursue for licensing. A honest band/manager/promoter would pay the creator of the image to license their photos. The Foo Fighters apparently had proven themselves to be, if Timothy Norris's anecdote is accurate, but before proving themselves honest they demanded that the photographer place all of their trust (and full copyright) in them.

On another note, if a photographer were to create their own merch (tee shirts, posters, etc) then that goes into a legal grey area. I'm not a lawyer and I haven't seen direct breakdowns online about the legality of such a trade, nor have I read any legal precedent on the topic. This isn't something I've ever considered as a revenue source for my business, in part because it creeps me out and in part because I feel that it's dishonest and wrong.

Carbonlib23
Carbonlib23

then don't sign it......then you won't have anything to sell to the "publication"....there will be 20 other photographers right behind you to sign the deal and take the picks...

nice "stand"......lol

Jim Nelson
Jim Nelson

You think anyone buys concert pictures anymore? HA!

It's easier to get photo passes for idiots and get their photos for free than hire a professional. At least that's the case with every venue I've seen.

art + photo =apryll
art + photo =apryll

Also, if the management company wants to own the photos, then the photographer needs to higher his/her fee for complete control of the images. On the other hand, foo fighters, this world has come to such a high medium with technology, just photograph yourself with your cheap camera phone and then you will nave nothing to cry about...

art + photo =apryll
art + photo =apryll

These people are not better than anyone else, they do not deserve to be photographed then. If you are on public ground, a journalist needs to be able to photograph on public grounds. I am sure everyone at the concert will have a cell phone that will be taking photos anyway and who knows where they will end up. I can understand if this is an editorial, ad, or private photoshoot.Whatever

Blue popovic
Blue popovic

It clearly shows the overbearing egos of those artists and the Gestapo-like techniques their managements are happy to use to control everything surrounding their cash cows. I'm glad to see not everyone is ready to sign these contracts just to get access. Maybe it is high time to teach those people a good lesson. Boycott their tours, boycott their products, because if you hit their wallets, you will hit the only thing that drives them : greed.

Veronika Moore
Veronika Moore

we had one like that for PiL (Public Image Limited) at a festival. many of us didnt sign it, just went to the crowd and shot from there. Bjork try to do a complete image control by not allowing anyone to shoot her but her own photographer and only her photographer supplying photos. we yet again went into the crowd to shoot her, but her management went even further and complained to the festival and Getty and had the images taken from the crowd removed by saying they were taken without permission.

Chris
Chris

I'd more more concerned about the unbelievably cliche'd review than the lack of photos!

Edu Hawkins
Edu Hawkins

Thanks for standing up for photographers. Someone has to - this whole over management thing is getting ridiculous. Controlling the 'image' if a band is bad enough for the reasons that you give, but how could industry people possibly defend stealing ownership? It's holding photographers to ransom. I hope never to have to see one of your drawings again, because I hope that more people become aware of this and put a stop to it.

Brittany Veinot
Brittany Veinot

sure they can own all of the photos - long as they're willing to pay an arm and a leg for them! 

Guy
Guy

Maybe Foo Fighters decided that they didn't wish to negotiate their terms with a publication that has taken a noticeable turn toward sensationalism, propaganda, and profiteering (and by profiteering, I mean imploring your readers to click to another page of an article that could easily fit on one page, thus increasing your advertising revenues--yeah, I see you).

I think you guys lost your right to argue on behalf of journalistic integrity a long time ago, and any photographers who work for you should know what type of publication they're getting involved with. There aren't any victims here.

jon behm
jon behm

Nice article Andrea. Erik, don't listen to these morons.

The idea that somehow concert photographers are making any sort of money off most of these shots is ridiculous. Most photogs make a pittance and the market for this supposed "re-selling of the pictures" is slim to non-existent. Considering the fact that most concert photographers could make more money if their chosen profession was Starbucks makes the notion of "greed" here pretty laughable.

Matt
Matt

I shot over 400 bands in the last few years, some very big names amongst them.

I think whether we are a plumber, an office worker, or a photographer, we should all strive to produce work that we value and respect.

Giving our work and artistry to a band for the mere pleasure of spending 10 minutes working infront of them is not showing respect and not showing value. I wouldn't sign it and neither would anyone that has genuine respect for their own craft.

http://music.yorkstcreative.co... for those that are interested.

Pixel Perfect Images
Pixel Perfect Images

Cheers, thanks for backing your photographers.  I wish all publications had the stones that yours does.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

I wish everything you guys bought/took pictures of would have a waiver that keeps CityPages from publishing photos online in the absolutely most annoying, bandwidth wasting, shittiest way possible in those low-res, yet somehow slow-as-balls-to-load slideshows.

Seriously...I used to forget how much those suck and would click on a slideshow link...then 3 photos in I want to throw my fucking computer across the room. CUT IT OUT, PUBLISH AS A THUMBNAIL SHEET...YOU HAVE ENOUGH PAGEVIEWS I PROMISE.

Maybe they just have a special rider for Village Voice publications because they know you put most your effort into squeezing every last penny from ad sales rather than editorial diligence or efforts prioritizing art and design.

Dicks.

April Kowaleski
April Kowaleski

Great post. I hope this doesn't discourage Minneapolis photogs. There are some great ones in the twin cities. Erik Hess, Kathy E, Tony Nelson and Chad Davis are some that come to mind. I hope it doesn't come down to no one shooting any shows anymore cuz of these releases. Keep up the work guys. We love seeing your photos!

just some dude
just some dude

Well said. Haven't seen anything by tony before but the others have always popped up many times... LOL we do read photo credits!

I probably woulda signed it tho myself.

aj
aj

sure glad im not a concert photographer with the name erik hess. my job might have gotten a little bit tougher now

Erik Hess
Erik Hess

Frankly, if my job gets tougher, so be it. I'd rather be honest and open about my choices and if people misunderstand me, I'll stand up to clarify my decision.

At the end of the day though, this is a storm in a teacup and a small glimpse behind the curtains of media journalism that few will care about. That includes 99% of publicists, who will hopefully be happy to have a professional at their show documenting their client's performance.

The 1% of publicists that have clients demanding contracts like this might have my name on some master blacklist but I'm not enough of a conspiracy theorist to think that'll be the case. If it is the case then I'd rather not shoot the artists they represent anyway.

Jay Meisel
Jay Meisel

The foo fighters make music for frat boys who aren't going to see the photos unless they are somehow posted to ESPN.com. Who cares what the photo waiver is? Just focus on a cooler band...

Aaron Popkey
Aaron Popkey

I think the quality of some of the photos printed by city pages shows that professional photographers are not what we are talking about here. We are talking 

about photographers who are freelancing trying to pick up a few dollars and want to be able to further profit off the bands they are shooting beyond getting 

paid to do so by city pages. Unfortunately, this hurts the readers of the city pages more than anything as they now have to read a subpar review with no 

quality visuals. City Pages has also gone out of their way to get into the politics of the behind the scenes of the media industry. 

With that being said I understand the point of view expressed here. It's about principle. I get it. Although, I think it's silly to assume that if you signed 

this waiver that Foo Fighters would come and tell you how to write your review. Silly only because clearly you would not be forced to write any review at all 

if you chose not to. Further, writing a review is not the same as taking photos of someone in a private setting that otherwise can't be obtained without 

permission.

I should note, that many publications did sign the waiver and agree to use the photos only for the publication they were granted permission to shoot for. 

Star Tribune or the Pioneer Press for instance. 

The irony here is the author of this article had no problem using photos shot by Tony Nelson in her Spin.com story. 

Aaron Popkey
Aaron Popkey

Next thing you know the city pages will be censor comments and only approving the ones they like.

Thats odd.. hope you never write a story on how your upset that a band *might* request that they approve photos before print.

michael endrizzi
michael endrizzi

Photos are for losers; bring back the sketch artist, dammit. They bring a camera, you bring graphite and then we'll see who's got talent.

Adam Bubolz
Adam Bubolz

Next thing you know, they're gonna make you sign a contract to bring in your sketchbook

George
George

#firstworldproblems

John Kurc
John Kurc

I am a professional concert photographer and I would sign this BS. Greed rears it's head once again. John Kurc of www.daxwax.com

Photography
Photography

By signing such an agreement you are hurting the profession of music photography - it's like a scab crossing a picket line!

John Kurc
John Kurc

That should have read "Would Not". I would never sign that BS!

Roe Pressley
Roe Pressley

"Greed rears it's head once again." Clearly you're not an editor. And yeah, it does -- nice link drop.

Junkstarr
Junkstarr

Glad you didn't cave in and accept those rediculous terms. Let the press respond by not creating editorial content for them : it'll be the Foo Who?

Because you're at their show, a photographer's work becomes their property? Well, in that case, I claim ownership of any material that comes out of the stereo speakers in my home.

Logan Doe
Logan Doe

People slandering the band because they don't like their music are missing the point.

I personally feel that this has a lot to do with the integrity of an artist's output.Is a photojournalist an artist?  They damn well should be considered so, but they're only as good as the work they produce.  Technology has made it easy for anyone to pick up a camera, take a bunch of pictures, and call themself a photojournalist. 

And that's the discussion I think the Foos and their management are wanting people to have.  Rock photography used to mean something - look at old Rolling Stone issues.  Iconic photos were shot by people who were looking to capture an important moment.  And they were shot on film.  Is it hard to shoot on film in 2011?  It's definitely more difficult to shoot a few carefully taken pictures on film than it is to shoot a shitload of similar-looking photos just because you know you can go back on your computer and choose the best one. 

The Foos, to me, represent this ideal as a band.  Just as Dave pointed out last night that the band doesn't need a computer on stage to make great live music.  The band is doing the work, not the machine.  Anything worth doing is going to be difficult, especially at first - as it should be.  And there are too many people just cutting corners without putting in the time.

I'm not saying all photojournalists are like this either.  Mr. Hess comes off as a legitimate photographer to me and he sounds like he's in this for the right reasons.  But by and large, I think this is a (FIRST-WORLD) problem we could look into improving.

Andre Friedmann
Andre Friedmann

Logan,Back in the day, photographers working with hand-held cameras used copious amounts of 35 millimeter film when photographing performing musicians.  And, after processing the film, they edited the results, culling the work down to their best "selects".Your ignorance makes your point less than pointless.  It makes your point borderline malicious in its ignorance.Andre

Dustin Winter
Dustin Winter

Your are arguing over a different time period where people were allowed to take a nice camera into a live show and take pictures for the whole show. Those days are gone and concert photographers are now made to only shoot for the most part first three songs now flash. As for film vs digital it is kind of the same thing. I shoot both and I can spend time working on a bad negative and get a great shot out of it. Just because people who shoot digital can work in Photoshop, Lightroom, etc does not mean it is any easier. You have to know how to use the program to fix a bad digital exposure in order to make it look good.

Erik Hess
Erik Hess

Honestly, Logan, I don't think the Foos themselves had anything to do with this contract. I couldn't find out exactly who was responsible for it but I'll say that the layers of people between myself and whoever was responsible necessitated some long delays in communication, so it must've been a few layers up from even the PR contractor handling the requests.

Also, if you want to bring a discussion of the art of photography and its commoditization into this, we're going to be here a long time. This is a conversation I have regularly with people, almost on daily basis. I consider myself an artist as well as a documentarian and while I may shoot digital, I assure you that each and every image I publish has gone through a rigorous many-hour-long process of selection, fine tuning and re-selection to tell a story. With 8 other people in an average arena photo pit taking very similar images, staking out novel visual territory and bringing something compelling and vital to the viewer are things I deeply consider and work my ass off to do. Every night I go out there I work as hard as I can to create a portfolio-worthy image, something that'll channel a moment, convey an emotion and drag someone into the experience.

I may not always hit my mark but I damn well try. Whether I'm lucky enough to be shooting U2 for Rolling Stone someday, covering the Goondas for Gimme Noise or or making a portrait Twins organist Sue Nelson for a City Pages print article I bring the same intense focus, wealth of experience and creative spark to everything I do. Why? Because I can't not do it.

I can tell you that I know dozens of other photographers - local and around the world - that feel similarly.

Erik Hess
Erik Hess

Have you ever had a real job? You know, a job where you go in every day, dress the part and do what you're told in exchange for a comfortable living? Have you ever done that job - even excelled at that job - for nearly a decade? Have you been told that your position's redundant, that your years of hard work mean nothing and that you're now free to "pursue other opportunities" in your field?

Probably not.

Have you ever worked doing something you believe in, because you can't fathom doing anything else anymore? Have you ever poured everything you've got into a craft?

Probably not.

Haters gonna hate though, as they say. Keep up the good work.

Jimmy Spader
Jimmy Spader

gag. give me a break. Work your ass off? Have you ever had a real job?

mk
mk

So you're saying that what they want is an artist capable of capturing a moment in a difficult situation with a medium that doesn't allow much for mistakes (film). But instead, what they're doing is ruling out people who respect their craft enough to not give it away. So they're getting hobbyist photographers who just think it's cool to say "hey, I shot for this big band!" The ones who don't care about giving up all their rights because they know they aren't good enough to ever make a profit off their work anyway and haven't made enough effort to learn their craft to respect their own work. If Foo Fighters don't want shitty photographers photographing their shows, then don't approve media passes for outlets that consistently publish shitty work. But I don't see how a gross violation of an artist's rights and work supports any kind of ideal.

Junkstarr
Junkstarr

I don't know who is slandering them, but none the less, any tog required to sign such a release ought to refuse, go back to their editor, explain the situation, and then they'll just kill the story. No coverage, no publicity for the Foo Who.

The Foo Who needs the press more than the press needs the Foo Who.

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