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Local lawyer brokers a Swift deal over shooting concert photos

The “Bad Blood” between recording superstar Taylor Swift and photographers is over.

And a Buffalo lawyer had a prominent role in ending the controversy surrounding restrictions placed on photographers at Swift concerts.

Mickey Osterreicher, a former Channel 7 photographer who now is the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, negotiated the revisions in the Swift policy that had gotten increased negative attention after the recording star won her battle with Apple Music over nonpayment to artists.

An article on the website of the Poynter Institute, a journalism think-tank, noted this month that at least two news outlets – the Irish Times of Dublin, Ireland, and the Montreal Gazette of Montreal, Quebec – would not take photos of her concerts because they said the contract gave Swift’s people “undue control over the process and product of their work.” The Foo Fighters have faced similar charges, notably from the Washington City Paper, which ran a drawing of that band with a story headlined “Why We’re Not Photographing the Foo Fighters.”

Rather than just shake off the criticism, Swift’s public relations team from Premium PR of Nashville, Tenn., made some revisions to the policy concerning the restrictions placed on taking photos at Swift’s 1989 World Tour.

In an interview Wednesday, Osterreicher said Swift’s public relations team reached out to him via email when they learned he was drafting a letter to explain photographers’ objections to the policies in the contracts they were required to sign before Swift’s concerts. The letter – which was signed by 14 news organizations – never had to be sent.

Osterreicher noted that the Swift photography contract that had gotten so much attention and complaints wasn’t the one in place. However, he added the current one still needed fixing. Swift’s team agreed to consider the objections raised by Osterreicher and news organizations.

In the agreement announced Tuesday, Swift’s representatives can’t forcibly remove images from cameras as they had been able to do before but photographers may be asked to delete their photos “if it is determined that you have taken photographs beyond the rules of this agreement.”

“That’s a big difference,” said Osterreicher.

In addition, the agreement now allows photographers and publications to use an image more than once. It could only use images once before.

Perhaps most importantly, the agreement reportedly adds a line that states “this contract does NOT transfer copyright away from you, the photographer or publication.”

Osterreicher said he has been negotiating with Swift’s team with “the advice and consent” of news organizations for about a week to hammer out the agreement. In a release announcing the agreement, Osterreicher was quoted as calling the revised policy “fair to everyone involved.”

In the interview, he acknowledged that it isn’t perfect but declined to say what other revisions the organization asked for.

“We came to an agreement that this was as good as it was going to get,” said Osterreicher. “Nothing is perfect. Not all of the revisions, but most of them that were asked for, they agreed to.”

“Given Taylor’s status and given other occasions where we have complained, we were very pleased she was open and receptive to making changes and we commend her for it,” said Osterreicher.

The revisions suggest Swift – who was nominated for nine MTV Video Music Awards Tuesday, including several for “Bad Blood” – or her team was upset that she was called a hypocrite for placing restrictive rules that harmed photographers’ ability to make a living at the same time she was ranting against Apple for doing something similar with music artists. Apple quickly gave in to Swift.

“I have no idea as to even whether she was aware of the criticism,” said Osterreicher. “I’ve only been talking to her public relations people. … As public relations people, they were probably concerned that they would rather have positive publicity than negative publicity. Somebody of her star status doesn’t necessarily respond to these kinds of things.”

He added that after the revisions, the Foo Fighters now take far more rights away in their agreements with photographers than Swift’s team even had in its original agreement.

“Hopefully, they may be willing to address those in light of what just happened with Taylor,” he added.

email: apergament@buffnews.com

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