Part of Nov 2011 by

Wanted: Concert Sketch Artists

So here’s the question: How much fame do you have to have to rewrite the US Copyright Law? Honestly, I think the situational answer-in-a-question is “To what degree is the concert photographer into giving up their rights?” The US Copyright Law, as my non-lawyer noggin understands it, says that as soon as an original work is created, it is copyrighted–which includes the big ol’ camera click of a button by a finger whose owner is standing in a photo pit with Lady Gaga’s shoe horn shoulders covered in meat dead-eye focused in the lens. However, there are several major music acts that are attempting to force photographers to sign away all their rights to the shots they take at their performances. Now before I lump Lady Gaga and Dave Grohl in some sort of rights grabbing Grohlga Stew lets put a nice little backdrop up for the whole scenario.

Concert photographers are there in the photo pits because they are music fans. There is more annual income handing out “Dippin’ Sauce” at the Labor Day Chicken Strip-palooza, than taking concert photos all year long. Only the best of the lucky-best music photographers land staff jobs at major media outlets where any sort of actual government endorsed currency is earned. Other than that it’s all Bartertown. Who rules Bartertown? Independent music media does.

The standard rule for shooting a concert is:  first three songs with no flash. Sometimes it’s two or even just one song, but no matter what, those initial songs of the set are designed to have the worst lighting possible. It’s just the way it is and concert photographers are used to it. As a concert goer you will notice that those songs will all have extreme reds, whites, or blues which is all very patriotic but make a crap playing ground for getting a decent shot. From there it’s possible that pics are only allowed from the sound board, which can be up to 50 yards away from the artist. This usually happens with older bands because rock n roll is not the fountain of youth after all. Who knew? On occasion you will see a photographer stay in the pit for the whole show but they are either employed by the band or are with a major media outlet that have been anointed by the oils of management to continue on. Like I said before this is all standard stuff and just part of the job of a concert photographer. Whether they like it or not. Another part of the job of a concert photographer is being spit on, kicked, harassed, and flipped off. And that’s just by the band. Crowds will hit, kick, spit, steal, throw bottles and generally be the mob that they are. If you think this stuff doesn’t happen then I know you’ve never been a concert photographer. Give this a read sometime:

Okay so what is all the hoopla about? As I understand it, and it is a very complex issue, there is a very serious movement by major acts to control and own the works of any photographer who has jumped through the hoops to take pictures of them. Photographers are now being forced to either sign over their copyrights to the shots or being showed the door. The band’s management wants all the rights, they want to be able to approve a shot before published (whether it’s web or paper) and the most ridiculous point is that the photographer is not allowed to use the shot in their personal portfolio. “Hey, want to see the cool shot I took of Dave Grohl? Call his lawyer and see what he says.” “Maybe if we buy him a pizza?” It’s really only one step away from a band controlling all independent editorial review content, which would be those wordy things that wrap-around the pretty management approved pictures on your browser.

Most concert photographers are freelance and this is an assault on them and as musicians and artists themselves, whether it is driven by their management or not, it is wrong and needs to be addressed. First through diplomacy with the bands themselves (not their management) and then if it remains unaddressed through boycott.

Bottom line: The subject of an artistic endeavor does not own the artists work no matter if they like it or not. Just the way it should work no matter how rock starry you might be.

For a lot more info on this matter check out these links and like this Facebook page for the latest on the subject:

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