Be careful what you sign. Recently, a photographer was given a copy of the Vice Media Photographer Agreement and was very taken aback by what it contained.
We tend not to read legal documents these days. I mean, has anyone ever read the iTunes terms and conditions? Ever? There's a tendency to be blasé and simply sign such documents. I frequently see it with my clients when I hand them a contract, and I often encourage them to read it, because it also makes my life easier when they ask me to do things that are far outside the range of the agreement. One photographer recently revealed the contents of the Vice Media Photographer Agreement sent to them when licensing images, which contains the two following sections:
Photographer grants, transfers and assigns to Vice, its agents, assigns [sic], licensees and successors, in perpetuity for the entire world, all of Photographer’s rights, title and interest in and to the Photographs, including any copyright in the Photographs, and without limitation, the perpetual right [to] make reproductions of the Photographs in any form or media now known or hereinafter created, forever and throughout the world (the “Usage”). Photographer hereby acknowledges that Vice is and will be the sole owner of all rights in and to the Photographs and any reproductions thereof.
So, Vice wanted all rights to the photographer's images; in effect, they would no longer own their own images. While this is a less than stellar scenario, it's not uncommon, sadly. However, the contract also contains the following:
Photographer hereby expressly releases and indemnifies Vice, its agents, assigns [sic], employees, licensees and successors from and against any and all claims, liabilities, demands, actions, causes of action, cost and expenses, whether at law or in equity, which a third party may have or may in the future have for invasion of privacy, commercial exploitation, false light, copyright or trademark infringement, libel, defamation, or any other cause of action arising out of the exploitation of the Photographs or any part thereof or by reason of Photographer’s breach of any representations, warranties or agreements contained herein. Photographer acknowledges that Vice is relying upon the rights granted to it hereunder in entering into this Agreement.
In speaking with Photo District News, Attorney Carolyn Wright notes that legally, this places the burden of compensation for any losses upon the photographer. In other words, according to this contract, the photographer signs away all rights to their own photos, but is still responsible for any misuse of said photos by Vice. It doesn't exactly seem like the most symbiotic relationship. It's a stark reminder that companies will often try to take advantage of our work, and it's important to be vigilant in protecting our rights.
Lead image by Flickr user A. Birkan ÇAGHAN, used under Creative Commons.
[via Photo District News]