Does Lady Gaga Own Your Photos?

Posted by David Ozanich — 9 Mar 2011

theladyandthecamera.jpgWho owns this photo?

The ever-shifting legalities of copyright ownership for photographers hit a new high (or low) now that Lady Gaga is demanding the copyright to your photographs of her. Her photo release form for folks covering her concerts includes this phrase:

"Photographer hereby acknowledges and agrees that all right, title and interest (including copyright) in and to the Photograph(s) shall be owned by Lady Gaga and Photographer hereby transfers and assigns any such rights to Lady Gaga."

TBD looks into the issue and finds that several big acts, like the Beastie Boys and the Foo Fighters, require similar commitments from professional photographers at their shows.

One person who works with Lady Gaga and asked not to be quoted was surprised by the demand for copyright but questioned why photographers automatically own copyright on their work, since it's the artist who does the show (in Gaga's case, a very visual one).

People who've been in the business for a long time find that attitude somewhat challenging. "That to me kind of shows a shocking disdain for the creative process," says Eugene Mopsik when asked about this sentiment. Mopsik, who worked as a concert photographer in the '70s ("in those days we were free," he says, laughing) is the executive director of the American Society of Media Photographers. "Congress gave photography the power of intellectual property," he says, "and that's not up for debate." Mopsik calls such contracts "predatory in nature."

The article goes on to consider other complicating factors like when photographers surrender copyright to their employers, say the Associated Press or Reuters. And apparently certain artists, including Lady Gaga, have different releases for print and online outlets. So I guess, to be safe, never photograph Lady Gaga. But if Lady Gaga makes an appearance, and no one photographs it, did it really happen? These are worrisome times, people.

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