A feature article for The Vine. Excerpt below.
First Three Songs, No Flash – And No Copyright
Andrew McMillen inspects the contracts and copyright law related to recent Australian tours by Big Day Out artists Tool and Rammstein.
(Main pic: Slash vs Photographers at Soundwave, Adelade 2011 by Andrew Stace)
As the 2011 Big Day Out tour wound itself across the country this year – it ended in Perth on Sunday, Feb 6 – hundreds of professional photographers snapped portraits of an artist line-up that included Californian hard rock act Tool and German industrial metal troupe Rammstein.
These two bands were the heaviest-hitting acts on the tour. Yet their photo release forms also revealed that they were the bands most protective of their image. “All copyrights and other intellectual property rights shall be entirely Artist’s property,” read a line from Tool’s contract, which photographers wishing to capture the band from the front-of-stage photo pit were required to sign. “[The photographer] is prohibited from placing the photos in the so-called online media, and/or distributing them using these media,” stated Rammstein’s decidedly archaic contract, which concludes with an apparently self-defeating line about being subject to the laws of Germany.
Such rights-grabbing statements are nothing new in the live entertainment business, where artists’ images and ‘trade secrets’ have always been fiercely protected. Eddie Van Halen was known to turn his back to the audience when performing innovative electric guitar solos before Van Halen were signed, so as to prevent both his newly-discovered techniques from being viewed by rival guitarists – or being captured by keen-eyed music photographers.
Recent Australian tours by popular rock acts like The Smashing Pumpkins and Muse have demanded that photographers shoot only from the sound desk; Muse, too, issued a contract which states that photographers “hereby assign full title guarantee the entire worldwide right, title and interest in and to the Photographs, including the copyright therein”. Which means that if Muse (or, more likely, their management or lawyers) happen to be browsing your live photo portfolio and they’re particularly taken by a picture of bassist Christopher Wolstenholme’s fetching red suit, they can request the high resolution image file – or negative – free of charge. You have no power to negotiate because you’re bound by a contract.
Why, then, in an age where the vast majority of gig-goers carry web-ready media devices in their pockets, are bands still so insistent on attempting to shield themselves from the close scrutiny of professional cameras? And are these contracts even legally binding, or simply attempts to scare newbie photographers into surrendering their hard work – with zero additional compensation on top of their publication’s one-time print fees?