Saturday, January 21, 2017

Times’ Failed Attempt At Fairness and Equity

On November 2nd, Norm Pearlstine (LinkedIn) penned a missive to «Photographers Who Work with Time Inc.» where he harkened back to the roaring 20’s and the origins of Time and Life magazines (NYSE: TWX), and mentioned the «power of iconic photography» and suggested that «our commitment to original photography is as true today as ever», yet what Norm fails to recognize, in the new Time contract he’s proffering, detailed and analyzed below, is that  Time has NOT factored in any kind of cost-of-living into what Time is paying their photographers, and is trampling on the rights of photographers like a 20’s flapper stomping on the dance floor.

Perhaps they should remember that it’s the talents of these photographers to create striking visuals that boost single-copy sales, and the talents of writers, reporters, and photographers, to create compelling content that readers will want to consume. This contract fails at facilitating a living wage.

First, check out this Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator (here) and you’ll see that to have the same buying power in 2015 as $ 1.00 in 1925, you’d need $ 13.60. So, has Time increased their assignment rates 13X since then?

Let’s start with 1980 rates.


Going back to 1980, and adjusting for inflation their rates should be over $ 1,000 for what used to be a $ 350 assignment back in 1980. Exhibit A in the contract shows a 2015 rate of $ 650. That means, that what you were earning at $ 350 in 1980 only gives you $ 191 in buying power today. We wrote about this extensively in December of 2014 — The Pathetic and Paltry Time Magazine Assignment Rate & Rights Grabs (12/31/14). I would love to find out what Time paid as an assignment in 1925 and plug it into the same calculator, because if they paid even $ 100.00 for an assignment in 1925 the same assignment would be $ 1,359 today. So, to reverse the equation, $ 650 in 2015 means that an assignment rate of $ 225 in 1980 was fair, and just shy of $ 48 an assignment in 1925. In neither case was it fair, and in 1980 they paid much more than that.

But I digress.

Pearlstine’s missive uses several softening touches to what is a really really horrible contract. He even says «Some photographers have already signed a cross-brand agreement» as if to say «others don’t have a problem with it so you shouldn’t either. » An attached letter by Jeniqua Moore, Time’s Associate Director, Digital Asset Contracts and Rights Management, requires you to agree to what’s written or «No new assignments will be made to you after January 1, 2016 unless you confirm your agreement to the attached new Time Inc. commissioned photography agreement by signing the agreement.» They also include a notice of termination, writing:

«On behalf of Time Inc. and each Time Inc. division, affiliate, subsidiary, brand, and publication, this letter constitutes notice of termination of each Prior Agreement, effective as of January 1, 2016. All rights to photography you created under previous agreements between you and Time Inc., or any Time Inc. division, affiliate, subsidiary, brand, or publication, will continue to be governed by those agreements.»

So, what does the new contract dictate?

(Continued after the Jump)

Let’s look at the contract and break it down:


This agreement (“Agreement”) is made and entered into as of January 1, 2016 (the “Effective Date”), by and between Time Inc., including its affiliates, subsidiaries, and divisions (each, a “Publisher Brand”), including editorial publications published, managed and/or operated by Time Inc. for third parties (unless such publications send you a separate agreement), and __________________ («you»). Collectively, Time Inc. and Publisher Brands are referred to in this Agreement as “Publisher.” This Agreement governs the rights and obligations of Publisher and you with respect to Photographs and Videos you create in connection with each Assignment (as defined in Section 1) after the Effective Date of the Agreement, but not any photographs, videos, or other content you created or submitted to Time Inc. or any of its affiliates, divisions, or subsidiaries under any prior agreements. Rights granted by you are specified in Sections 3 and 4 and payments to be made to you are described in Section 6. Your performance of any Assignment or submission of any Photographs and Videos constitutes your acceptance of this Agreement.  

The above is standard boilerplate. Nothing wrong with that.Keep in mind here, all video you produce, and make no mistake about it, all smart phone photos you produce, are also governed by this agreement. Just because you used your professional cameras for much of the assignment, if you are using a different camera that happens to be a smart phone too, all the content you shoot with that device is also governed by this agreement.

1. Assignments. This Agreement will commence on the Effective Date and will continue unless and until terminated as provided in Section 16 (the “Term”). Each Publisher Brand based in the United States (an «Assigning Brand») may engage you from time to time during the Term to create for, and deliver to, the Assigning Brand: (i) photographs, including outtakes if requested, suitable for the Assigning Brand (each, a «Photograph») and, if also requested and agreed, (ii) video, motion pictures, and audiovisual works, including outtakes, suitable for the Assigning Brand (each, a “Video”). The Assigning Brand will communicate to you, before the applicable shoot, in an email or other writing, the Photograph/Video subject(s), due date, photo shoot expense budget, and other information relating to the particular project (the “Assignment”). Publisher Brands retain sole discretion over whether and when to use, and authorize the use of, the Photographs and Videos.

Now it starts to get murky. «Assigning Brand» isn’t defined.  It may be obvious where they are saying related brands could be for Time and Time for Kids, or People and People en Espagnol,  but what about Golf Magazine and Money and Fortune? Consequently you really don’t know what rights you are assigning away to whom, or from whom you can expect to receive reuse payments under the «Affiliated Brands» schedule.Throughout this contract, video is referred to, and it should be noted that these could be full on productions requiring an entirely separate crew, or a simpler behind-the-scenes video of the shoot. Make certain you’re estimating a completely different fee set for also being the producer of those videos.

2. Delivery. You shall deliver to the Assigning Brand all Photographs and Videos created pursuant to each Assignment, as specified in the Assignment or otherwise requested by the Assigning Brand editor, whether in the form of original transparencies, negatives, contact prints, high resolution, low resolution, digital media, video, audio-visual, computer generated work, or any other format now known or hereafter developed, no later than the due date set forth in the applicable Assignment, time being of the essence, or after such due date if requested at any time by the Assigning Brand.

This requires you to deliver all your raw files (stills and video) on request. Be sure to allocate extra DAYS for the FTP time on this.

3. Rights Granted. You reserve and retain all rights in and to the Photographs (excluding the Idea House Assignments, as defined in Section 4) that are not specifically granted to Publisher under this Agreement, including ownership of the copyright. You hereby license to Publisher, the Rights (as defined below) to each Photograph created pursuant to an Assignment (excluding the Idea House Assignments), exclusively to the extent specified in Section 5 (Embargo). “Rights” means, collectively, the Assigning Brand Use & Reuse Rights, the Affiliated Brand Use & Reuse Rights, the Syndication Rights for Sports Illustrated, and the Time Inc. Photo & Food Studio Rights, each as defined below, each and all including the rights to reproduce, distribute, publish, publicly perform, display, download, transmit, and store the Photographs, and authorize and license the exercise of such rights to and by third parties, each and all throughout the world, in perpetuity, in any and all media, formats and methods of transmission now known or hereafter developed.

Times’ Failed Attempt At Fairness and Equity

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