Kill Notice!

A few days ago, a Chicago photographer sent me the contract that Rihanna is handing out on her currant tour. I am sure the usual (sad that they are now called the usual) issues are in place- first two or three songs, have to shoot from the soundboard. I guess these issues are so common, they are not even written into a contract anymore!

In the first paragraph, they explain that you can only license images to the publication you are working for, and have written into the blank space allowed. So…… since most publications these days only pay a meager sum, if at all, you probably break even on the parking at the venue and the gas needed to get there and back (if that). So the question I always ask is: WHY DID YOU SIGN THIS AND SHOOT?? WHY DID YOU GO IN THE FIRST PLACE??

Next paragraph: Photographer shall provide copies of the “photographers edit” of the images to Tourihanna. Photographer agrees that any image which were not provided as part of the edit shall be permanently destroyed/deleted by photographer so that they may never be seen by any third party. YIKES- WHAT IF THEY COME TO YOUR HOUSE TO CHECK!!!!!!!!

Next paragraph: Tourihanna shall have the right to reject any or all of the images by sending photographer written notice (“Kill Notice”) of the same. If Tourihanna rejects any image by sending a kill notice, then photographer agrees to permanently destroy/delete any such image and all copies thereof so that they may never be seen by any third party.

So, lets talk about photographic kills. In the movie business it is traditional for all the stars of a film to have a percentage set that they could use to “kill” photos that they did not like. The bigger the star, the bigger the percentage. Arnold Schwartznegger, in his prime had the right written into his contract to kill 99% of the photos taken of him on the set. I worked on a Brian DePalma film in the 1980’s called “Light of Day” starring a very famous Michael J. Fox, Joan Jett, and Michael McKeon. I was given total access to the set for ten days in Chicago and Cleveland, with the purpose of me being able to license images to music publications. The contracted kill %’s were:

Michael J. Fox             75%

Joan Jett                        50%

Michael McKeon            25%

So after the first day of shooting, I went home, had the film processed and arrived on the set with pages of slides and a magnifier, ready to fight for my images. The band (Michael, Joan and Michael) were sitting in the shade next to their trailer. I sat down and asked who wanted to look at photos first. MJ Fox said “I was watching you yesterday, you seem like you know what you are doing- use whatever you want. Just make me a few prints of us looking cool when we are done.” The other two looked at me and said “We are with him.”

The other side of the story: In the 1980’s, I used to do a lot of work with Nightranger. When they were at the height of their fame, I went to a show in Chicago. After the show, the band invited me to jump on the bus the next morning to hang with them and shoot for a few days. So off I went. Shot about 3 shows and countless offstage posed and casual shots. When I got back home there was a message on my machine from their manager, telling me he wanted photo approval. So like a fool, I made about 300 duplicate slides and sent them out to him. A week later, he left me a message with the numbers of the three images that he had approved. I called him a left him a message that, because the request for approval happened after I had done all the work, it could not be enforced and I was sending out whatever I wanted to. Never heard from him again.

So back to Rihanna: My first rule- never agree to photo approval. I always tell them that I will send them a disc with my edit, and if there are a few (5 or less) images that they don’t like I will not send those out, unless I think one is really great, in which case there will be a discussion! Since, more than likely, nobody from her management’s team will ever look at everyone’s edit, and since they will not allow anyone to syndicate without their prior written consent, GOOD LUCK ON THAT ONE!!

One last point: toward the end of the contract, there is a line that says that “Photographer acknowledges that if Photographer breaches this agreement in any way that Tourihanna shall be irreparably harmed and shall be entitled to injunctive relief to protect Tourihanna’s rights hereunder, in addition to, pursuing any damages that Tourihanna may claim against Photographer. YIKES AGAIN!! I almost want to ask for a photo pass to break the rules and see how they try to prove that a performance photo of her in a magazine does irreparably harm and what that that transgretion worth.

My final thought: If you were dumb enough to sign this contract, hold on to the photos for a few years, until her career is over, and then license then as cultural artifacts of an age when people with not a lot of talent made a lot of money!

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