Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Morrissey Dilemma

The ticket lady at The Academy of Music handed me an interesting piece of paper when I asked for my photo credentials for the nights performance. After twelve months of non-exclusive usage the copy right returns to Morrissey. Essentially, Morrissey owns my work in a year. My knee jerk reaction was to tell the lady to shove it. Nobody owns my work. Now, there's also a clause preventing Morrissey from exploiting the work without my consent. That what's kept me at the show. Unfortunately this proccess is becoming all too common in the industry. When I photographed Phil Roy for Decca records (a subsidiary of Universl Music Group) I was faced with a similar dilema. From Morrissey's contract:

5. Company shall not exploit the Photographs other than by way of the licence to the Photographer hereunder without Photographer’s consent.

7. Company shall be entitled to assign transfer sub-license mortgage charge or otherwise dispose of its rights hereunder to any person or entity without reference to Photographer provided that Company shall remain primarily liable to Photographer for its obligations hereunder subject always to clause 5 above.

Michael Alan Goldberg penned a passionate plea for photographers to boycott this process. He walked away from the show after receiving the contract days before. I thought about it when the ticket lady was staring at me impatiently, but I decided to sign. Morrissey wants to prevent photographers from capitalizing off of his image. However, Morrissey has capitalized from the work of other artists throughout his entire career.

His performance was wonderful, I felt it from front row stage left. Did I do the right thing? Maybe not. This I know, he'll never own the enjoyment I experience from making pictures. Nobody will.

For a review of the show, check out Phawker.

PS - How 'bout Morrissey referring to himself as "Company." We're a long way from June 1986, when "The Queen is Dead" was released.


Anonymous said...

Hey Michael,

Yeah, those particular clauses in the contract are what had me agonizing over my decision. I totally respect you going through with it -- you probably have more faith in the contract, and people in general, than I do. Maybe I am being a tad paranoid, who knows, but knowing the history of various corporate entities finding ways to obtain and/or exploit intellectual property despite such clauses -- and knowing Morrissey employs a large phalanx of lawyers that I probably wouldn't want to go up against -- in the end I decided it wasn't worth it to give up total and complete ownership of my shots. A dilemma for sure! I'm glad you enjoyed the show -- I'm sure I would have, too. He was terrific when I photographed him two years ago, and it's a shame this whole episode has left such a bad taste in my mouth. Ah well...

Michael T Regan said...

I feel the same way Michael. I think the only difference between our decisions was the fact that you had the time to agonize. I know I would've too. I share your paranoia regarding the foggy areas of intellectual property.

David Swanson from The Inquirer refused to sign it with the backing of the paper. He shot it anyway. Obviously, they decided having The Inquirer coverage was more important.

In the end, I agree with you and think these ridiculous contracts SHOULD be boycotted. They'd change real quick if no one covered his Refusal tour.