Photo by Fernando Nuñez
Photo by Fernando Nuñez

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In July, Dave Grohl and his Foo Fighters rolled through town for a huge 4th of July blow-out. It had Trouble Funk! It had Heart! It had Gary Clark Jr.! What it didn’t have, however, is one of our freelance photographers there to document it all (Editors note: We did have a photographer shooting the opening bands, but not Foo Fighters). Why? Because their photographer release form was utter garbage and—literally—exploitative. In it, the band would have “the right to exploit all or a part of the Photos in any and all media, now known or hereafter devised, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in all configurations” without any approval or payment or consideration for the photographer.”

We weren’t going to put up with that nonsense and now, other journalists are joining that chorus. Today, the Society of Professional Journalists signed an open letter to bands and entertainers like the Foo Fighters who issue restrictive press credentials.

“The impetus for the letter,” the SPJ says, “are the conditions that several entertainers, including Janet Jackson and Foo Fighters, have placed on journalists covering their events.” In the eyes of photojournalists assigned to take pictures of such performers, such conditions—like making photographers only take pictures during the first couple of songs, forcing photographers to give legal co-ownership of photos to performers, and reserving the right to use those photos for commercial use, without any payment to the photographer—not only keep them from doing their job, but also strips them of the ownership for their work. Moreover, it’s seen as violation of their First Amendment rights:

Demands for the absolute right to profit off our members’ work are even more egregious when one considers another frequently seen provision: demanding the right to expressly approve — in writing — any images before they are published. Such a demand is in direct opposition to the notion of a free and fair press. It’s patently offensive to demand the absolute right to both use our members’ work for the performer’s direct benefit and to demand the absolute right to run our business by reserving editorial control.

City Paper stands behind everything the SPJ outlines in this letter. Journalists and photojournalists should not be told how they can do their job (like being given 30 seconds to photograph Jackson), nor be forced to give up the ownership of their work in order to do that job.

Read the full letter below: