When the authorization form landed in my inbox for the Taylor Swift show at Hyde Park this weekend I had a feeling it was going to be fairly restrictive. Swift is one of the biggest acts in the world right now, her image for this record has been carefully curated and I understand why her label / management want an element of control. I signed it and sent it back to The 405's photo editor with an accompanying note grumbling about selling my soul but hey ho never mind, right?

The grumbling in the music photography community over the last 24 or so hours has been due to seemingly every news outlet fawning over Swift as the bastion of artistic rights as she (her label, surely) wrote a blog post sticking up for the little guys by staring the man (Apple) in the eye and calling them out on not paying artists fairly. And it worked. It was the blog post heard around the world. Memes and tweets started appearing joking about what other problems Swift could single handedly solve. The conflict in the Middle East? The economy? Meanwhile every photographer shooting any one of her 79 shows across the world opens up gmail, types "Taylor Swift" in to the search bar and digs out the soul-selling agreement for a re-read.

An open letter has been written about that contract and is doing the rounds. You should read it. For the sake of convenience, I'll reiterate the key points that seem at odds with Swift's artistic-right-championing stance here:


- The photographs my only be used on a one-time basis for news or information purposes by the agreed publication.

- The photographer will not use any of the photographs in any manner, including on your personal or professional website or social media accounts or pages, without the prior written approval of FEI or the Artist and/or her authorized agent(s).

- You expressly grant FEI, and its related entities, including but not limited to 13 Management, LLC; Taylor Nation, LLC; and Taylor Swift Productions, Inc. the perpetual, worldwide right to use the published Photographs for any non-commercial purpose (in all media and formats), including but not limited to publicity and promotion on their website and/or social media accounts or pages.


So in a nutshell: The publication I'm shooting for can use them once. I can't use them in any way without getting permission first. Taylor Swift's shopping list of companies can use them however they see fit so long as they're not directly making money from them. Seems fair.

Swift's UK spokesperson responded to the photography communities calls of "double-fucking-standard" thusly: "this agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer". And they're right. It doesn't. I will still own the copyright to the images. They are MY images. MINE. ALL MINE!!! But by signing this contract I also can't do anything with that copyright. With MY images. I can't sell to third party picture agencies. I can't include an image in my professional portfolio. I can't even upload an image to Instagram.

Well, actually, all that's a lie. I can. As long as I have "prior written approval of FEI or the Artist and/or her authorized agent(s)". This tour has 79 dates. Let's say each date has 20 photographers in the pit. Are they really happy to receive around 1,500 emails from photographers?

"Hi, FEI. Hope you're well. I've got this photo here of Taylor from the Hyde Park show. Great gig, man. I know I own the copyright to this shot (thanks for that) but I thought I'd fire over a quick message to see if I can upload it to Instagram? I checked my contract and it says that regardless of owning full copyright of the image (again, thanks for that) that if I do upload it without prior written permission I 'will cause irreparable harm, injury, damage and expense to FEI and the Artist; and FEI and the Artist are entitled to equitable relief in addition to any other right or remedy available'. Look forward to hearing from you."

To echo many others before me, calling out Apple on not paying artists fairly is a good thing. Using the leverage of being one of the biggest recording artists in the world to force their hand is shrewd. The Taylor fans will see it as her sticking it to the man and up for the little guys. The cynics will say that Taylor Swift's management wrote that blog post in an effort to make sure that, after snubbing Spotify, 1989 is available to stream on world's most successful record shop with the financial renumeration it deserves.

The way I see it, FEI and its related entities, including, but not limited to 13 Management, LLC; Taylor Nation, LLC; and Taylor Swift Productions, Inc. think it's ok to call foul on Apple wanting to use their copyrighted material to strengthen its Apple Music brand for free. At the same turn, the same companies want the right to use my copyrighted material to strengthen the Taylor Swift brand for free.

Oh, and one last thing. We only get pit time for the first two songs, Taylor? That's just salting the wound.

See you Saturday!