Yesterday, we reported about the éclat caused by American alternative band Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, after they had used a photograph taken during one of their gigs without the photographer’s permission. Not only wasn’t the photographer properly credited when the band uploaded the picture to its Facebook page, the image was also cropped so as not to show the photographer’s watermark, and it was heavily edited. All of this combines to one grave case of copyright infringement.
However, instead of acknowledging their wrongdoing, the band instead publicly shamed the photographer for asking them to either pay a licensing fee, or take the image down. In the end, their attempt at bullying a photographer out of his legal rights failed miserably, and the band was forced to publicly apologize to the photographer. But instead of realizing what they had done wrong, they went on to state that they believe “most forms of DIGITAL art should be FREE!”
Photographers’ copyrights not being respected, and their work not being valued, is an old story and sadly a recurring theme, and Red Jumpsuit Apparatus weren’t the first to display such an arrogant and neglectful behaviour. Unfortunately, they also weren’t (and won’t be) the last. In what seems to be a direct reaction to the RJA incident, the tour manager of the rock band Three Days Grace, Shawn Hamm, now also weighed in on the matter, again downplaying the role of the photographer in concert photography.
On his Facebook page, Hamm arrogantly claims that it’s a privilege for any photographer to take a picture of a band, and that they should “FUCK OFF” when the band decides to use the photographer’s work on their own social media channels. There are so many things wrong with this statement, we’re not even sure where to begin. For one, it is ridiculously narrow-minded and self-centered to assume that any photographer should feel privileged to take photos of a band. One could say the same thing to a band in return: they should feel honored to be photographed by a great photographer.
Then, Mr Hamm apparently doesn’t appreciate the notion of copyright. When a photographer creates a picture, he is the owner of said picture. The only exception being that he contractually waived the rights to his work beforehand. Now, just like a working photographer, a rock band (or any other kind of professional musician) is a business and makes a living from the art it performs. And like a photographer, a band wants to be paid for its work. Not wanting to pay for the pictures taken at a performance is downright denying the photographer’s right to make a living from his work.
So if a band asks a photographer to take their pictures, this is no different from a couple asking a wedding photographer to shoot their wedding, or from a company asking a photographer to take headshots of their staff. In either of these cases, the photographer is working for the respective party, and he should be compensated for his work. Depending on what the individual contract states, this may be a one-time payment or it might be a recurring payment for every time a photograph is used by the other party. In any case, unless clearly stated otherwise, the pictures remain the property of the photographer.
Mr Hamm does at least seem to get the part about contracts, as he goes on to advise “ALL BANDS”:
“make sure nowadays you make all photographers you approve sign a waver stating you can use the photos of YOURSELF however you want before you approve them to shoot YOUR SHOW!”
Which makes us wonder if Mr Hamm has a habit of telling portrait photographers that he won’t pay them for the passport shot they just took, because it’s HIS photograph and they should feel privileged that they were even allowed to take his picture.
In reply to this, here’s our advice to ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS:
Make sure nowadays that you make all bands you photograph sign a contract that clearly states that YOU are the owner of the work YOU are creating, and that they CANNOT simply use your work without at least asking your permission and giving you proper credit. Don’t undervalue your own work, and don’t let others deny you the right to make a living from what you do. After all, YOU as well pay THEM with each record that you buy.