You know the phrase “double standards”? Taylor Swift seems to have become the dazzling embodiment of it since the beginning of the 1989 tour which stopped at the Centre Bell yesterday.
As you might have noticed, La Presse isn’t publishing concert photos or photos of the darling child. Know that it is absolutely not our habit to go without a live photo the night of a concert.
Tuesday night, however, Taylor Swift didn’t give us the choice. For one of our photographers to be authorized, it was a prerequisite that La Presse sign a contract with six clauses. Six. We refused. And for good reason.
The contract sent to all media outlets who are covering the 1989 tour forbids journalists from publishing photos taken at Tay Tay’s concert more than once. After the first time, they have to inform the singer’s producers and get the green light from them before they can publish.
Conversely, the same contract, with astounding shamelessness, gives Tay Tay and her producers the right to take the press photos and make what they want out of them — posters, t-shirts, CD liners, recipe book covers, you name it — and all of that in perpetuity and without paying a single cent of royalties to the newspapers.
If there were an analogy to be made, I would say this contract could be mistaken for a contract developed by the multinational company Apple, which gave it the right to offer music continually without paying a cent of royalties to musicians.
Because, if you remember, it is against exactly that measure that Taylor Swift made a public outcry, condemning Apple’s decision not to pay royalties to artists during the three-month free trial period of its new listening service Apple Music.
Having become the Joan of Arc of royalties, Tay Tay made Apple give in. In a surprising about-face, they accepted the darling child’s demands.
Victorious and hailed by the great universal family of musicians, Taylor Swift didn’t think twice: She turned around and gave Apple’s exact same miserly medicine to press photographers around the world. Double standards.
In fact, the contract imposed on photographers dates from before the Apple controversy. It has been in place since the beginning of the 1989 tour in Tokyo in May. Strangely, the media made little of it until Jason Sheldon, a British photographer, condemned the measure in an open letter to Taylor Swift at the end of June.
Saying she is “guilty of the very same tactic” as Apple, Sheldon wrote: “Photographers don’t ask for your music for free. Please don’t ask us to provide you with your marketing material for free.”
A short time afterwards, the Irish Times newspaper in Dublin explained that because of the restrictions imposed by Taylor Swift, no staff photographer had been sent to her concert.
Not all newspapers are following in their footsteps. Some continue to send their own photographers and, therefore, give the rights to their photos away to the singer’s producers. Others have resorted to using photos furnished for free by the Getty agency. Doesn’t matter. What the contract demands of press agencies is as ridiculous as it is excessive. It gives off the very unpleasant odor of obsessive control.
Taylor Swift wants to control her image even in her most recent cutting off of the media. It’s madness! Newspapers, which are, until proven otherwise, free businesses, don’t have to give in to her nonsense, nor do they have to be told which photo of Taylor Swift they have the right to publish and when they can do it. And above all, newspapers don’t have to give up their photographic rights in perpetuity to a girl who, at 25, is already worth $200 million.
If press agencies held strong, they would reject this whole contract, not send a photographer to Taylor Swift’s concert, and not publish a single photo of her the next day.
Just because the charming blonde succeeded in making Apple give in doesn’t mean the planet must now bend to her demands.