[UPDATED] A Photographer’s Open Response To Taylor Swift

Business / Photography

Over the weekend Taylor Swift penned an open letter to Apple on tumblr. In her letter she was upset over Apple’s new music streaming service, Apple Music, and the fact they would be offering three months free to users without paying artists in those three months. The post went viral all over social media and every place in between.

UPDATE (06/23/2015): A UK representative for Taylor Swift told Business Insider via email:

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.

Interestingly enough, the further use requires management’s approval, which you can bet is quick in coming should it be requested.


Now one photographer is calling Taylor Swift out on her open letter to Apple with an open response to her complaints. In a blog post entitled “An open response to Taylor Swift’s rant against Apple,” Jason Sheldon responds to Swift’s letter piece by piece and he lays out a pretty good complaint himself. Sheldon is a freelance photographer who is hired by agencies that represent Swift to take pictures of people like Swift. Sheldon then posts the contract Swift’s management has photographers sign prior to taking pictures of the star and goes into his explanation for his open response.


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.

Sheldon makes an amazing argument in his open response and it will be interesting to see if this goes as viral as Taylor Swift’s tumblr post. Please go read the entire post to get the full context and more explanation. And thanks to J. Agnew for the tip.

What do you think of Sheldon’s response? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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