Last week at Farm Aid, I was talking to a freelance photographer in the photo pit about photo restrictions. During the conversation, he mentioned his problem with what he called “Rights grabs.” I asked him what he did about those kinds of contracts. He told me that what he does is that he signs a fake name and magazine to the contract. This is the same thing that I hear from many photographers around the country. This is good and bad at the same time. The good side: Photographers are “getting away” with not signing the contract. The bad side: Eventually, managers will read these and figure them out, and will come up with bigger problems and more restrictive contracts.
The other problem is that this is not addressing the problem- it is hiding from it! The real way to solve this is to not sign the contract and refuse to shoot. This will eventually open a dialog and maybe (or maybe not) help to eliminate the problem.
When I got back home from Farm Aid, I had an email in my inbox from a singer songwriter asking me if she should sign a contract for a song contest that included the clause that stated that the song she supplied for the contest would become the property of the sponsor. (A musical rights grab). I told her in my reply that in my opinion, any time someone gives up their intellectual property, they were being foolish and that she shouldn’t sign. She called the contest officials and they allowed her to cross out the clause and they would initial it, rendering it null and void. Problem solved. Maybe some publicists and/or managers would agree to the same thing!
One can only hope.