I, the accidental paparazzo: the celebrity I shot at Central Park wants to use my pictures
October 10, 2008 9:46 PM   Subscribe

I, the accidental paparazzo: the celebrity I shot at Central Park wants to use my pictures. Do I negotiate some financial compensation or just sign the release in exchange for having my name on the photo credits?

A couple months ago I was, as I did most weekends during the summer, sitting on a bench in Central Park photographing people. I shot a very cute couple before I realized the guy was a singer. I put the photos, along with all others from that weekend, on flickr. I don't usually license my flickr photos under Creative Commons, so these are "all rights reserved".

Today I got an e-mail from someone producing this guy's next cd. They want to use my photos and attached the following release:

"I _____________________ am the sole and rightful owner of
the photos dated _________________. I agree to allow Xxxxx Xxxx Music, Xxxxx Xxxxx or his representative, full and
complete use of my photos for promotional, web posting or
merchandise purposes. I grant the permission free of
charge and with no conditions."


The pictures look good, but I am, at best, a pretentious amateur. The idea of having my photos on this guy's material is flattering and I would gladly do it just to satisfy my ego.
I realize there's very little possibility of getting payed, and I will sign the release if that is in fact the case, but I'd hate to be the sucker that didn't get any money while everyone else did.

How do these things work? Is there space for negotiating even though the release says "free of charge"? Do I flat out put a price on my photos?
posted by AnyGuelmann to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
You should get paid something. Would you send him an email asking for use of his songs for any and all purposes?
posted by lee at 10:02 PM on October 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


they are making money with your work, which even if you don't consider it much more than a lucky shot is a work (of art) you produced. the agent wants the biggest of all licenses for nothing. giving it away for free would hurt the professional photographers out there who didn't get this job because of this one being available cheaper.

you said you shared your photo under a cc license. so he already knows your stand on this issue - free as long as you don't make money with it. offer him a flat deal: non-exclusive, with proper credit, 500 or 1000 bucks (whatever you prefer actually). if they are half way decent/professional people they will accept that within a heartbeat as you are not fleecing them.
posted by krautland at 10:04 PM on October 10, 2008


You might want to try asking this on a photography forum; there are any number of them out there that often have pros giving advice to amateurs. One thought that pops into my head (being the suspiscious type that I am) is that rather than wanting to use the photos themselves, they might just be getting you to sign away your rights so that you can't use them in a way they might not like. I am not a lawyer and so do not know exactly what that wording would cover.
posted by TedW at 10:05 PM on October 10, 2008


seconding tedw, who's the other person in the "couple"?
posted by docmccoy at 10:09 PM on October 10, 2008


No, the license allows the singer "full and complete use" but it does not say "exclusive use". IANAL but I think that rules out TedW's guess.
posted by metahawk at 10:16 PM on October 10, 2008


krautland, they're not under cc.
TedW, great point.
docmccoy, according to google she's just the girlfriend, not "in the business".
posted by AnyGuelmann at 10:17 PM on October 10, 2008


You might want to restrict the free or low-cost rights to CD cover and liner notes use only. Other merchandise (such as T-shirts or posters) using your photo may be relying almost entirely on the value of your photo, and I think it would be fairer for you to get paid more in those cases.
posted by grouse at 10:29 PM on October 10, 2008


No, the license allows the singer "full and complete use" but it does not say "exclusive use". IANAL but I think that rules out TedW's guess.

If you decide to take an offer from these people, make sure "non-exclusive" is spelled out and not simply implied by other language. (I am also not a lawyer.)
posted by Mikey-San at 10:31 PM on October 10, 2008


They want a perpetual license for free. Gosh, that sounds like a pretty good deal for them.
posted by rhizome at 10:57 PM on October 10, 2008


I realize there's very little possibility of getting payed, and I will sign the release if that is in fact the case... Is there space for negotiating even though the release says "free of charge"? Do I flat out put a price on my photos?

Understand that every single word of their proposed contract is indeed open for negotiation. You are free to counter with any terms you darned well feel like. They are free to accept, refuse, or counter-offer. Ignore how it's been framed by the initial offer, because it's just an offer. If someone knocked on your door and offered to buy your house for $0, would you assume that its intrinsic value must be that low? Pfft. Your picture's value is greater than $0. Here's how you know: someone wants to have it. If fact, they must be jonesing for it pretty bad, if browsing it anytime from your Flickr stream won't suffice.

Ask any price you want. Either (a) you get that amount, or (b) wind up settling some other amount higher than $0, or (c) they decide not to buy after all. Regardless, all leave you better off than accepting the "deal" currently on the table. Let's say they bail, for instance. If it was worth it for singer/rep to try to acquire it, likely someone else would appreciate a chance to bid on the image as well. A collector, a stock agency, the record label, whatever.

If you're not comfortable setting reasonable terms/amount for a counter offer to the singer, have an attorney do it. Negotiating and writing contracts is what they do. For the hour or two is should take for one to get an agreement, the result should more than recoup the cost of their services.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:08 AM on October 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm going to be the sole fish swimming against the current here, but this was my personal experience:
I took some photos of an exploded cafe near my house (gas leak) and emailed them to a newspaper, stating that they could use it with credit, and to contact me if they wanted the full resolution copies. Didn't hear back from them and guessed it was nothing lost. Monday morning I opened our daily newspaper and my photo was margin to margin on page 2. I suspect had I asked for payment of some type in my initial email it would have gone unattended -they used someone elses photo for the online copy of the same article, however I was the one doing panoramics so I guess that might have made it more appealing for print use. Didn't get any money, but I did get my name printed on page two of the most widely circulated newspaper in my country.

So depending on where your career / ambitions currently are, and if you can get some idea of where the photos would appear then possibly releasing a license to use free of charge could be in your best interests. However if you can negotiate some form of monetary payment, by all means do so, but I guess consider the outcome that they might decline your offer and you may ultimately get nothing.
posted by chrisbucks at 3:23 AM on October 11, 2008


If you want to be a professional photographer, the credit would be the most valuable consideration, and I would offer it for free (for the CD and liner only) with a credit.

If you have no such interest, a small payment would be in order for this use, and reserve any other use to later negotiation, as grouse suggests.
posted by yclipse at 5:01 AM on October 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you don't want to be a professional photographer, I suggest you get an all-expenses paid trip to some cool city where the guy is playing and backstage passes. For two, of course.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:00 AM on October 11, 2008


I'm in NYC and shoot Celebs and musicians on a regular basis.
Ask for a sizeable chunk of cash for the photos. If they turn you down or offer you something tiny, tell them you've already gotten a good offer elsewhere. If they really want the photos, they'll negotiate. BUT - you should be the one drawing up the contract. Do not sign theirs. Its your property and you're licensing it with your terms.
posted by blaneyphoto at 6:28 AM on October 11, 2008


Honestly, I doubt you're going to get anything from it, but it (probably) wouldn't hurt to ask. This sounds like the kind of thing that they probably sent to everyone they could find with pictures of him, so assuming the value (to them) is more than $0 dollars also assumes that nobody else would be willing to give them a good enough substitute for $0.

Some other points I agree with from above:

- The license does not (and virtually cannot) be interpreted as an exclusive license.
- I would make the non-exclusivity explicit anyhow.
- I would limit the use rights to whatever specific thing they're asking to use it for
- A short note back that says something to the effect of "Are you offering any compensation for the use of the photo?" might spur them to give you whatever the "going rate" is in their office.

Also, a point that hasn't been mentioned yet -- if this guy is on a record label, you have a lot of "in-kind" options for trade here -- tickets to see any other band on the label, free CDs, etc. Record labels give those things out like candy, so it might be time to do some research and see if there's anyone on that label you're interested in, then proposing that to them: "I really like Band X -- is there any way you'd be willing to trade some concert tickets to their show at Place Y for these photo rights?"

Congrats!
posted by toomuchpete at 6:35 AM on October 11, 2008


you should be the one drawing up the contract. Do not sign theirs. Its your property and you're licensing it with your terms.

Good god, no. If you want to drive the negotiation that's fine... but let them draw up the contract unless you have a lawyer around to do it for you. The way written contracts are interpreted gives the benefit of the doubt to the person who didn't write the contract - ambiguities are resolved in their favor, so if you draw up the contract and there's any weasel room in it, they will basically be legally entitled to take it.

IANAL.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:37 AM on October 11, 2008


Good god, no. posted by toomuchpete

I've yet to have a problem and I've been doing this a long time, so ymmv.
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:19 AM on October 11, 2008


How famous is this singer? I think that makes a difference in how much money to ask for and whether them using your photo for free will really benefit your career.
If they are really well-known, you might consider letting them have the photo for free with credit because it could drum up professional business for you.
If they are lesser-known, they are really ballsy, because unless you're a friend, what would you get out of giving them liner art for free, unless they become popular in the future?
posted by fructose at 9:25 AM on October 11, 2008


I've yet to have a problem and I've been doing this a long time, so ymmv.

Could say the same thing about darting across interstates blindfolded. Just because you've been lucky enough not to have this blow up in your face doesn't mean it's not a really terrible idea (which it is).
posted by toomuchpete at 3:07 PM on October 11, 2008


giving it away for free would hurt the professional photographers out there who didn't get this job because of this one being available cheaper.

A million times yes. The ego boost of a photo credit doesn't pay the rent.
posted by girlmightlive at 3:43 PM on October 11, 2008


« Older How to cross-cite Westlaw and LEXIS cases?   |   A boost at the polls from jōō'lə-rē? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.