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A modest proposal to Swift

TAYLOR Swift (a major pop music artist, M'Lud) raised the profile of copyright issues considerably when she contacted Apple about their new Apple Music streaming service.

During a three-month "trial" of Apple Music, customers could stream music for free, and artists whose work featured on it would not be paid. Swift wrote a "To Apple, love Taylor" open letter to the company, explaining why she would not be adding her latest 1989 album to the service.

Said Swift, "Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company... This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success."

Such is the commercial clout of the Swift brand that before long Apple replied. The company whose bank balance is bigger than the economies of a lot of countries confirmed via Twitter that "#AppleMusic will pay artists for streaming, even during customer's free trial period."

It’s certainly the first time the Freelance can recall overhearing copyright and rights grabs being discussed on the Tube. Swift’s phrase "We don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation" has since been quoted extensively.

Things go even more interesting when UK-based freelance photographer Jason Sheldon pointed out the very restrictive contracts that he and other concert photographers are forced to sign as a condition of covering Swift's gigs. For her 2011 tour, her management people, Firefly Entertainment, demands of photographers who shoot Swift's gigs that they do so on a "one-time-use" only basis, surrendering any Firefly has the "perpetual, worldwide right to use" the same images as they see fit, without payment to the creator.

Matters escalated, and Swift's UK agent said in a statement that the contract had been "misrepresented" and the contract didn't prevent Sheldon and other photographers making money from selling on their photos. (Technically true, although they would have to seek permission first from Swift’s "team" every time they wanted to resell one.)

Sheldon in response drew attention to a 2015 contract from Swift's UK management which seemed to be even worse, "preventing publications from using the image past 2015, and also threatens the destruction of photographers equipment (including but not limited to cell phones, memory cards, etc) if they breach the agreement."

Nor were there were any contact details on the contract for someone with whom photographers could negotiate, noted Sheldon. He also claimed that when photographers had managed to get hold of someone at Firefly, "their requests are ignored or denied."

This is in contrast to American rapper-singer-songwriter-poet Michael Franti, who once contacted photographers to express his horror on discovering his management had sent out "without my knowing and approval" a "release" restricting use of photos taken at his gigs. Franti confirmed they could do what they liked with their photos, reiterating they could stay in the pit for the whole gig (no "three songs and out"). He ended by saying "please disregard the release."

Last modified: 29 Jun 2015 - © 2015 contributors
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