Athens, GA March 25, 2019
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) joined by 15 other press groups and media organizations, including the Associated Press, Gannett, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, sent a letter to the tour company of Ariana Grande, objecting to a photography agreement that requires photographers who are covering her concerts to transfer their copyright to their concert images to Grande’s tour company and then requires advanced written permission from the performer in order to use those same images for journalists purposes.
The “Standard Terms and Conditions for Photographers/Live Appearances” for the Sweetener World Tour require that “all rights (including all copyrights) in and to the Photographs shall be owned by GrandAriTour, Inc. (‘Company’) as a “work-made-for-hire.’” The agreement provides for “the limited right to capture solely still photographs of Artist solely during the first three (3) songs performed by Artist at the Performance” and that “any such photography shall only occur from a designated spot at the front of house (not in the ‘pit’).” In addition, the photographers covering the concert and the news organizations for which they work, would only be allowed to use their own photographs if the specific images were “expressly approved in writing by Artist,” and even then, only “in a single instance, solely as part of a news item relating to the Performance in the news publication of which Photographer is an employee/agent,” which violates established journalistic ethics.
NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher wrote in a letter to Myman Greenspan Fox Rosenberg Mobasser Younger & Light, LLP (Ms. Grande’s representatives) that “This surprising and very troubling over-reach by Ms. Grande runs.counter to legal and industry standards and is anathema to core journalistic principles of the news organizations represented here.”
The agreement also required that the photographer “promptly provide Company with one (1) complete set of contact sheets and digital files of any and all Photographs taken in connection with the Performance, for personal, commercial and/or archival use by Company and Artist” and provided Ms. Grande “the right, without any obligation to photographer or any third party, to use and exploit the Photographs in any manner, by any and all means, in any medium or form, whether now known or hereafter devised,” which Osterreicher labeled as “both onerous and overreaching.”
The letter concluded by encouraging “Ms. Grande to create an agreement that better recognizes and values the work of visual artists with the same respect we assume she has for the rights of musicians and the worth of their songs,” and requesting “that you immediately revise the agreement as a good-faith effort by your client in support of all artistic and editorial works.”
NPPA Deputy General Counsel Alicia Calzada also noted that in addition to the ethical and practical problems with the agreement, the bold underlined writing at the end of the agreement stating that “Any Photography of Artist by Photographer Shall be Deemed Acceptance by Photographer of the Terms Hereof, and Company and Artist Shall Proceed in Reliance on Such Acceptance,” is inappropriate and not legally binding. “You can’t transfer copyright that way,” she said while also taking issue with the fact that “photographers are not legal agents of a news organization and generally do not have the authority to sign away the copyrights of their employers.”
“We cannot in good conscience advise our members to sign such an agreement as it currently stands, and we will be actively and publicly reaching out to photographers and their publications cautioning them against signing it,” said NPPA President Michael P. King.
Those groups joining in the letter are:
American Society of Media Photographers, American Society of News Editors, Associated Press, Associated Press Managing Editors, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, The Buffalo News, First Look Media Works, Inc., publisher of The Intercept, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Gannett Company, Inc., Los Angeles Times Communications LLC., New York News Publishers Association, The New York Times Company, News Media Alliance, Radio Television Digital News Association and Society of Professional Journalists.