On November 2, Time, Inc released a new photographer contract with a “sign it or else” ultimatum. The contract, in not so subtle words, screwed photographers on a number of issues. ASMP Executive Director raised concerns with me over the weekend about the lack of inclusion of photographers in structuring the contract, and when I asked him about a trade association response, he told me that it was in the works.
Yesterday, NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher issued a letter co-signed by Kennedy to Time, Inc. Chief Content Officer Norman Pearlstine. According to Kennedy, Osterreicher has “already heard back from” Pearlstine indicating that the letter was being passed along to other top management at the company.
The letter serves two key purposes: 1) It helps establish an industry-led response to an onerous contract, and 2) it helps educate photographers on key contract issues (i.e. your ASMP and NPPA membership dues paid for a lawyer to read it for you. You have paid your dues, right?)
This is hopefully the first of many steps that will lead to more equitable contract amendments. But as I have articulated before, the only way this works if for all photographers to refuse to sign the contract until key provisions are made. Photographers have to also realize that the contract affects all Time, Inc. publications.
On Petapixel, I had an exchange with a photographer who identified himself as a Time magazine portrait photographer who signed the contract. Part of his justification is that he is able to take a $650 day rate and bill additional services, “There is obviously a lot more to these jobs than just showing up (day rate) with gear (rental fee). This is a service industry, I provide many services, and I bill for all of them.”
This is all well and good for him. He apparently makes decent revenue from shooting portraits, but the problem is that the unified contract for all Time, Inc properties is not favorable to all classes of photographers. Presumably, he has a good working relationship with his assigning editor and therefore turning in expenses to pad an invoice is a non-issue. But this might not be the case for a Sports Illustrated contributor who then loses secondary sales for any “assigning brand.”
The devil is in the details. Photographers should use the Time, Inc contract as a watershed moment to really understand how signing will affect you and all photographers in the future. What will you do?