Time UK Issues Rights-Grabbing Contract

Fri 27th Mar, 2015

in Contracts

Towards the end of December last year (2014), Time UK issued an onerous revision to its long-standing contributor contract. It's clear that Time drafted this revised contract with the sole purpose of intimidating its already under-compensated contributors into transferring their copyright directly to Time Inc. under fear of never working for Time again.

If the content of Time's unprecedented rights-grabbing contract weren't enough, their devious methods ensured that photographers had little, if any, time to review the stipulations with legal counsel nor mount any organized resistance prior to the expiration of the arbitrary truncated signing deadline imposed by Time. To make matters worse, Time purposely issued their contract while most recipients were on Christmas holiday and required that the signed / executed contracts be returned solely via regular post.

While many might consider this primarily a UK issue, it must be remembered that there are many US based photographers that contribute to Time UK. And since Time Inc. is a US based global corporation, there is no doubt that their parent office is closely monitoring what happens in their UK division before instituting the very same exploitive policies here in the US.

APA feels it is imperative that all photographers become informed of this issue and keep alert to any contract of this kind that requires forfeiture of copyright. To this end we have posted a PDF of the contract and an open letter issued by BPPA (British Press Photographers Association) in response (below).

APA leadership is currently reviewing the details of the Time UK contract and exploring all potential responses. Please watch this space and contact APA National with any questions and / or comments.

This letter was sent on BPPA letterhead

Hamish Dawson
Publishing Director
Time Inc.(UK) Ltd.

Dear Mr Dawson,

What would make a photographer with well over twenty years experience, a mortgage and a family tell one of his key clients to “get lost” – using language that we couldn’t and wouldn’t want to post on a public facing website?

The answer is your new rights-grabbing contract which includes a not-so-subtle line giving them a choice between signing what appears to be a massively unfair deal or losing any and all chance of supplying you ever again. Sadly, you aren’t the first major publisher and buyer of photography to decide that you want to tear up long-standing agreements which saw you buying licenses to use the photographs whilst the copyright remained with the photographer. Sadly, you probably won’t be the last either.

The reason that the old one was a ‘long-lasting agreement’ was because it was fair – the word ‘equitable’ even comes to mind. The fees paid were OK but the ability to re-sell the work after an initial period of exclusivity made the jobs worth doing. Had you, the publisher, substantially increased the fees payable to the photographers to redress this balance then that sense of fairness may have been saved from what most of those photographers feel will be a sad, painful and untimely death.

Receiving these letters just before Christmas has been causing anger, resentment and pain for a large number of photographers who can be excused for assuming that the calculation within the Time Inc UK management must be that enough existing people with no real option to do otherwise will sign and enough struggling photographers who don’t yet work for you will grasp their opportunity to get more work and keep their heads above water.

Make no mistake, this is not a small adjustment to the terms and conditions under which so many photographers supply work to you. This is moving the goalposts, repainting them and renaming them as ‘scoring portals’.

We would like to give you the opportunity to explain why this is being done. We probably know the obvious answers about maximising shareholder returns and the less obvious ones about protecting the brands but what about the relationship that you had with talented, creative and dedicated suppliers?

Does a rights-grab of this magnitude make it worthwhile destroying relationships that have stood the test of time and that have worked well?

Any explanation that you can provide will be shared with photographers because many of our members are struggling with your decision.

Kind regards,
Neil Turner
vicechairman@thebppa.com

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