Recently concert photographer J. Salmeron was banned from any and all performances of Arch Enemy after requesting compensation (actually, he asked them to make a charitable donation) from a company for an image he took of Alissa White-Gluz, the lead singer of Arch Enemy, during the FortaRock metal festival in the Netherlands. Instead of responding directly, the company referred his request to the band manager, Angela Gossow, who told him that the company–being the sponsor–had the right to use any photographer’s work without compensation (beyond the exposure his work was getting, which he should be happy for), and that all promoters, labels, and booking agents would be informed that he was persona non grata.
Unfortunately, there’s plenty of precedent for this. As copyright law gets more-encompassing and longer-lasting, the power falls more and more into whatever corporation is backing the most commercially-viable iteration of the intellectual property. in this case, the IP of the band is overriding the “derivative work” of the photographer photographing the band.
I’ve seen firsthand how IP-bullyish the music industry is. While I was in college, I worked at an arena that occasionally hosted music concerts (fortunately, I hadn’t gotten into photography back then, and nothing “interesting” happened with the IP of my image during the event). One such concert was recording for a video and had posted signs on the doors saying that “by purchasing a ticket” and “entering the premises” people were licensing their images in perpetuity and without compensation. Now I don’t see a problem with taping crowds as crowds, but the phrasing of the “release” was so broad that if anything “unusual” had happened, the band management would have owned that, too–lock, stock and barrel. The other problem with it? I hadn’t purchased a ticket; I was an employee, so technically, I hadn’t “agreed” to release my image to them. Nothing in my employee info said I was signing away any image rights (I’m sure arenas the world over are adding tiny little clauses to their employment contracts to cover that, now.)
Not that this problem is unique to the music industry. (What’s the difference between a “poem” and a “song lyric”? Two lines of a copyrighted poem in your work is usually “fair use”; two lines of a copyrighted song lyric in your work is always “intellectual property theft.”)
And the situation is getting worse, not better. Used to be, if it was part of a cityscape, it was fair game for photographers. Now, you need permissions to photograph certain buildings if they’re “recognizable,” even if they’re only incidental to the composition. Same goes for cars: it’s one thing to “not look at” a corporate emblem, but a few years ago Ford declared that images showing the “C-scoop” of its Mustangs could not be used without specific release. The more pervasive corporate branding gets, the more their 800-lb gorilla lawyers abuse the protections of copyright.
What we need is some court to recognize a clear definition of “public place” and stop all these IP squatters from eating their cake and having it, too.