Time Inc. foists awful new contract on photographers

New Time Inc., contract is an awful rights grab
New Time Inc., contract is an awful rights grab

It’s an awful part of the job, but photographers need to be able read and understand contracts. The new Time Inc. contract, which will be sent to photographers working for all Time Inc. publications, including Time magazine, Travel + Leisure, People, Sports Illustrated, etc., is an awful rights grab that results in lower fees paid to photographers. John Harrington has published a great deep read of the new contract. PhotoShelter has a nice overview of the issues.

Here’s the new contract below, along with an introduction from Time Inc. Chief Content Officer Norm Pearlstine. Pearlstine was also editor of Time magazine from 1994-2005. His introduction starts, “Since the 1920s and ’30s, when Time and Life magazines first appeared on the scene, Time Inc. and its brands have been known for the beauty and power of iconic photograph. While our commitment to original photography is as true today as ever, we are revising how we commission and use photographs.” Ironically, the contract that follows is an affront to the very livelihood of photographers. I couldn’t continue working as a photographer without decent fees, payment for reuse, and the ability to relicense photos taken on assignment.

Writing on PhotoShelter’s blog, Allen Murabayashi notes that the contract eliminates the notion of a space rate through a perpetual right to republish photos without compensation, makes all video shot for Time Inc. work made for hire, makes it impossible for photographers to relicense work used on magazine covers, takes away photographers’ recourse in case Time Inc. violates the contract, and allows payment for work done only in case an editor deems it “acceptable.”

I strongly advise all photographers to do what I do when confronted with contracts like this: refuse to sign until rights-grabbing language is changed. This is the only way for photographers to maintain their livelihoods.

In my 10 years of freelancing, I’ve given up the copyright to a photo (a single photo!) exactly once. In that case, I was paid five figures. There is, after all, a price for everything. In every other case in which an editor or art buyer has asked me to sign a rights grab or offered a pittance for my work, I politely refuse and offer some alternative ideas for contractual language that allows me to keep my copyright and the ability to license the work in the future. If the publication refuses to budge, I turn down the assignment or licensing agreement. Often, the publication will find a way to go ahead with the assignment or licensing on my terms, but not always. In a recent deal with Time Inc., in fact, I was able to get around the rights-grabbing contract and get a higher fee than their standard space rates by standing firm on my terms(but always remaining cordial and friendly). I’ve done the same with other major news and publishing organizations, including CNN, National Geographic, The Verge, and others. It can be done.

The only way to get rid of these awful contracts is to quit signing them. If you’re presented with a bad contract, strike the bad language and politely explain why you can’t and won’t sign the contract as it’s first offered. If they are open to negotiation, that’s wonderful. The client will likely view you as a professional. If not, stand firm and decline the work. There is no other way.

National Geographic magazine partners with Fox to become for-profit

National Geographic and 21st Century Fox have announced a new for-profit partnership taking over the magazine and other NatGeo media properties.
National Geographic and 21st Century Fox have announced a new for-profit partnership taking over the magazine and other NatGeo media properties.

I had to double-check the date on this to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. The Washington Post is reporting today that National Geographic magazine, which has been a non-profit since 1888, will become for-profit in a new partnership with 21st Century Fox, Rupert Murdoch‘s media company. In addition to the magazine, the partnership includes National Geographic’s television channel and other media properties. The National Geographic Society, which has owned the magazine since the beginning, will remain non-profit and separate from this partnership.

National Geographic is no stranger to corporate partnerships, but this deal seems altogether different from private companies’ underwriting the organization’s grants and operations. In exchange for $725 million, Fox will own 73 percent of the new media company, called National Geographic Partners. The National Geographic Society will own the remaining 27 percent. The chair of the partnership’s board will rotate annually between a Fox representative and a National Geographic Society representative.

National Geographic’s press room has a bit more detail in a press release.

There’s little information about how this will change the magazine or National Geographic’s other media assets. The cable channel has been the subject of controversy in the past; close to my hometown, the channel’s reality show “American Colony: Meet the Hutterites” has been called distorted and exploitative by its subjects. Another National Geographic show featuring Montana, Diggers, has been criticized for promoting the looting of archaeological sites. And in the past, some of National Geographic’s photo contests have been rights grabs. Their ongoing Your Shot photography community allows National Geographic and its partners perpetual usage of submitted work.

WNYC’s On the Media had a good piece a few years back looking at what it called of National Geographic. The show questioned National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey and National Geographic Channel CEO David Lyle about the preponderance of trashy, “pulp” reality shows on the channel.

My hopes aren’t high for what this transition means. The American cable channel TLC was originally run by NASA and featured programming that fit well under its longer name, The Learning Channel. In 1980, the channel was acquired by a private company and began a long slide into what it has become now, a television channel featuring the worst of the worst “reality tv.” It will be interesting to see what becomes of National Geographic’s magazine and other media as this partnership takes hold.

APhotoADay announces APAD Backyard Storytelling Grant


Melissa Lyttle‘s APhotoADay (APAD) has just announced the APAD Backyard Storytelling Grant. The grant will support one visual journalist (photo or video) producing a project within 350 miles of their home. The deadline for entries is Aug. 31, 2015, and the winners will be announced at this year’s GeekFest, APAD’s annual movable photo festival. Here is the entry information for the grant. Projects that have already received funding above $5,000 in the previous calendar year are not eligible.

You should think about going to GeekFest, by the way. I went last year in Philadelphia and had a blast. This year, it’s in Oakland, and a bunch of great speakers will be there, including a few of our friends: Pete Brook, Mark Murrmann, Matt Black, MaryAnne Golon, Darcy Padilla, Deanne Fitzmaurice, and Nadia Lee Cohen.

The news of this grant comes hot on the heels of APAD becoming a registered non-profit. If you don’t know about APAD, you’re missing out. I’ve been a member of the APhotoADay community almost since I started taking pictures and I’ve met many of my closest photographer friends through it. There’s the APAD listserv, where people can post a photo a day for critique, and there’s the annual GeekFest, and there’s APADTweets and APADgrams, and now there’s this grant. It’s an amazing and welcoming community of photographers dedicated to telling stories.

By the way, some of the funding from the grant came from a print auction last year, but you can still help support APAD through purchases made on AmazonSmile if you aren’t already clicking through our Amazon links to support dvafoto. Go to smile.amazon.com and in the box where you choose a charity to support, search for APhotoADay. Then go to smile.amazon.com every time you shop. Prices stay the same for you, but a portion of every sale will go to APAD to support initiatives like this grant.