Why Photographers Are Beefing With Ariana Grande

The mega pop star, running into issues with unauthorized merchandise, had her management implement an aggressive copyright policy for concert photos. Media organizations are fighting back.

When it comes to photographers profiting off her image, Ariana Grande isn’t afraid to say, “thank u, next.”

But groups that represent photographers and journalists see the issue differently. This week, the National Press Photographers Association sent a letter to the pop star’s management team, speaking out against a contract that treats any photos of her taken at concerts as a “work made for hire,” giving all rights to these photos to her tour company.

“As a creative artist herself, we cannot understand how Ms. Grande and her representatives could demand such terms and conditions in exchange for permission to photograph her performance,” NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher said in the letter [PDF].

Those who sign the contract will only be able to shoot Grande during three songs, and use of the photos in any form, including by a media outlet, would require written approval from the musician.

“If the Photographs are to be printed together with any editorial, news, or other informational text, the final edit of such text shall be subject to Artist’s prior written approval,” states the contract, published by NPPA [PDF].

According to TMZ, the aggressive copyright strategy came about as a result of photographers (reportedly just a handful) who would take lots of photos of the singer that would then end up on bootleg merchandise. The approach is intended to protect her brand, the outlet says, and the artist will still distribute photos taken by her own team after shows.

That’s not good enough for NPPA and the 15 other organizations—including associations such as the American Society of News Editors, wire services such as The Associated Press, and major media companies like The New York Times Company and Gannett—which spoke out against the “overreach” of the contract.

“As representatives of independent and staff photojournalists along with the news organizations that they shoot for, we encourage your company and Ms. Grande to create an agreement that better recognizes and values the work of visual artists with the same respect we assume she has for the rights of musicians and the worth of their songs,” Osterreicher added.

While NPPA recommended against its members signing the contract, the group noted that some of the contract’s stipulations might not hold up in court. NPPA Deputy General Counsel Alicia Calzada said that is particularly the case for photographers who are employees of a news organization and would not have the right to sign away a news organization’s copyright.

“Photographers are not legal agents of a news organization and generally do not have the authority to sign away the copyrights of their employers,” she said in a news release.

(lindsay neilson photos/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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