Photographer Calls Out Taylor Swift For Being a Hypocrite

Illustration for article titled Photographer Calls Out Taylor Swift For Being a Hypocrite

Taylor Swift’s gotten a lot of positive press this week for getting Apple to very quickly agree to pay artists for the free period of their new streaming service, Apple Music. But one photographer is pushing back at Swift, pointing out that if she’s so interested in making sure musicians are fairly compensated for their work, she should do the same for the photographers shooting her concerts.


As BuzzFeed notes, photographer Jason Sheldon wrote a post on his blog Monday that alleges that the contract Swift has freelance photographers shooting her shows sign makes it impossible for them to profit from covering her. He posted a contract Swift had photographers sign in 2011 that states that:

The photographs may be used on a one-time only basis for news or information purposes within the body of related text of the publications entitled [x], and shall not be (a) duplicated or reprinted in any other publications, (b) republished in the same Publication or Published in any other edition of such Publication without the Artist’s written consent...


Subject to the written consent of the Publication as to any specific future use, FEI shall have the perpetual, worldwide right to use (and to otherwise others to use) any or all of the Photographs for any non-commercial purpose (in all media and formats), including but not limited to publicity and promotion.

The contract is similar to the one photographers signed for her 1989 tour, which specifies that photographers can’t license their photos of Swift in 2015. Sheldon told the BBC that when he saw the newer contract, he didn’t apply for credentials to cover 1989 because it was even stricter.

As Sheldon, who runs the UK agency Junction 10, wrote on his blog, these restrictions make it difficult for freelance photographers, who are paid “IF and when the photos are used,” which means they typically make money licensing their photos to other publications in the future.

Now.. forgive me if I’m wrong, but if you take points 2 and 3 in that contract (which is provided to Photographers who need to agree to those terms before they are allowed to do their job in photographing you for editorial outlets), it appears to be a complete rights grab, and demands that you are granted free and unlimited use of our work, worldwide, in perpetuity. You say in your letter to Apple that “Three months is a long time to go unpaid”. But you seem happy to restrict us to being paid once, and never being able to earn from our work ever again, while granting you the rights to exploit our work for your benefit for all eternity….

How are you any different to Apple? If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great.. make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support. But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?

Photographers need to earn a living as well. Like Apple, you can afford to pay for photographs so please stop forcing us to hand them over to you while you prevent us from publishing them more than once, ever.


In a statement given to the BBC, Swift’s spokesperson pushed back at Sheldon’s characterization of the contract, arguing that photographers simply need to contact Swift’s team to sell their photos elsewhere:

“The standard photography agreement has been misrepresented in that it clearly states that any photographer shooting The 1989 World Tour has the opportunity for further use of said photographs with management’s approval.

“Another distinct misrepresentation is the claim that the copyright of the photographs will be with anyone other than the photographer - this agreement does not transfer copyright away from the photographer.

“Every artist has the right to, and should, protect the use of their name and likeness.”


But Sheldon disagrees with that interpretation.


Swift is hardly the first musician to try and control images circulating of them; most recently, Beyoncé got slammed for banning photographers from shooting her shows at all, releasing only Bey-approved photos to the press. But as Swift is presenting herself as a voice for all the little artists out there, this criticism comes at a bad time for her.

And it seems to be escalating. In common practice among celebrities, Swift regularly posts professional pictures of herself to her Instagram. But as one photographer noted, Swift recently reposted a photo she doesn’t have the rights to on her Instagram, without credit.


Which of Taylor’s songs should I use to end this post? “Bad Blood”?

Contact the author at

Image via Sascha Schuermann/Getty for TAS


Speaking from a career of selling photographs on behalf of photographers who regularly shoot famous people:

The photographer does not have the right to resell her/his images without the consent of the photo’s content (that would be Swift). The reason? Photographer might get paid a shitload from a publisher, advertiser, coporation, etc. of which Swift does not want to be associated. If Playboy is running a story about Swift, Swift might not want to be associated with Playboy.

The press credentials (usually) allow photographers to photograph within that event. The “event” holds the rights to the content. Think of the Olympics or the SuperBowl and the gazillions of dollars in sponsorships being thrown around.

Sorry photogs, but that’s how the game is played.