Monday, November 16, 2009

** UPDATED ** Newsweek, Sarah Palin, and Photographers Rights

There can be a lot of discussion about the appropriateness of Sarah Palin's appearance on the latest issue of Newsweek Magazine. It's possible to tie this cover to the photo editor Simon Barnett's departure, and select choice of words - “Pictures tend to be used as part of an overall design conceit" (as reported at PDNPulse here), although we have no idea if it was this cover, the loss of key staff, or a combination of both.

What's missing here, is a discussion of the business side of the photograph.

(Continued after the Jump)

Runners World commissioned photographer Brian Adams to shoot their cover, and the broader take can be seen at Rapport here, or you could check out Rapport Press' images of "Sarah Palin at home in Wasila" here, and frankly, if Newsweek wanted to choose a worse photo in terms of making Ms. Palin look bad, they could have. That of course, is not to say that I don't think the magazine had an agenda, I do. However, the important point is that photographer Adams had the right to re-license his work from Runners World, to Newsweek. Of value to note, is the obvious question when most people see the cover is "what was she thinking posing for this photo?" And Newsweek answers that question on the front cover when they write "A photo taken for Runner's World, June 2009."

If you as a photographer give publications the right to re-use, re-license - or even own all rights - you are losing out on significant income down the line. Be sure to present to prospective clients your contract, and negotiate on terms you are comfortable with. Also of note, is that PhotoShelter is the power behind the Rapport archive.

*** UPDATE ***: Runners World has spoken out, on their website here, where they say of the photograph that, in part, " was provided to Newsweek by the photographer’s stock agency, without Runner’s World’s knowledge or permission."

As to Runner's World having to have "knowledge" about a re-use: Some contracts preclude images shot on assignment for one publication from ever appearing in their competition. For example, Time Magazine's contracts specify (or they did the last time I checked) that images shot for them are "OUT Newsweek/US News", meaning they can't appear in those publications, even down the line. If this type of clause isn't in their contracts, then likely they have no say in what re-uses there are. Further, there would be no need to notify Runner's World about this.

As to Runner's World granting permission: The only permission I can think of would be the need for the photographer to get permission from them because of an embargo. It's not uncommon for publications to have embargoes, precluding images produced on assignment from appearing anywhere before a) first publication in the assigning publication; b) 1 week after newsstand date; c) 30/60/90/180 days after newsstand date; and so on. Interestingly, the date on the cover of Newsweek says it was shot June 2009, which would, with a common 90-day embargo, give the photographer the right beyond the embargo to re-license. However, if the date is August 2009, then it is likely that a 90 day embargo would have ended at the end of November, and as such, there would be a problem.

In the end, if there was no embargo, then Runner's World was not entitled to any advance knowledge, and they would have no right to give (or refrain from giving) permission. The photographer created a compelling image for Runner's World, and was rewarded by a re-use from another publication because of his compelling images' residual value.

All of this said, it appears that the photographer, Brian Adams, has posted a brief note in the comments section. I have not spoken with him, and respect his desire to "stay out of this topic as much as possible". I am not personally aware of payment issues with Rapport Press, as commenter Melissa Golden has suggested, however she is not the only photographer who is reporting payment issues with Rapport.

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