Word To The Wise

OffBeat is dedicated to musicians and other artists. Thus, we support the rights of musicians, photographers, visual artists, writers and other performers to their Intellectual Property rights.

Not to be too academic about this: Intellectual Property (IP) is defined as “creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce: copyrights (anything from music to books, paintings, sculpture, film, photography, computer programs, databases, advertisements, maps and technical drawings) as well as patents, trademarks, industrial designs and ‘geographical indications.’”

If you’re a creative person, you know why your work is valuable and what IP is. However, I can assure you that many, many people in business outside creative fields don’t “get” this concept.

If you are a musician, I hope to all that’s holy that you understand how this works. Many these days are savvy enough to copyright their songs—at least I hope that they are.

Comprehension of IP tends to be very specific to the creative fields, and I’ve perceived that many musicians and music business types don’t understand copyright as it pertains to other creatives. They should.

Let me tell you a couple of stories. Several issues ago, OffBeat ran a feature on a local artist. Since OffBeat is a magazine that consists of both writing and photography, we were trying to find some good photos of the musician to accompany the interview. We asked her record label for help. They sent us some publicity photos they had in their possession, and we used one in the article. No photographer was credited on the photo. There was no attribution on the photo to disclose who the photographer was, and no “metadata” to identify the author of the photo.

These days, it’s very easy (and very necessary) for photographers to include metadata that can identify a photo with the name, place, time, location and creator of the photograph. This technology was developed because so many photos now are available online and on social media. And because so many people do not understand that a photographer likes to be credited for his or her work.

Our policy at OffBeat, and at any reputable publication, is to attribute photos and give photographers credit on press and publicity photos if we are aware who took the photo. We get so many publicity photos from record labels, publicists, managers and musicians that are unattributed to any photographer. In fact, most of them are not attributed at all.

When photos are taken specifically for us, the photographer is paid for the photo when it is published, or compensated according to an agreement we have with the individual photographer. And photos are credited.

We just had a similar situation occur with a photo of the Deslondes that was on this month’s cover. We received a press photo of the band from their record label; once again, no photographer attribution, and no metadata to identify who the photographer was. So we ran it without a photo credit (it’s since been added at the request of the photographer, which of course, we honored).

In both cases, the photographers were upset with OffBeat not running a photo credit.

Here’s what we did to correct the situation: we made sure photo credits were online, but in print, we were unable to do anything (we’ll always attribute when we have the info). But the bottom line on this is that most people do not understand that a photographers’ rights and credit are important. However, if we receive a publicity photo without attribution, we assume that the photographer had an arrangement with the record label or band, and we don’t necessarily include a credit. Frankly, we (and other publications who work under deadlines) don’t have time to try to search for the author of a publicity photo, and we shouldn’t have to.

I did a little research and found some typical policies and scenarios apply to photography.

I think it’s important for both photographers and musicians/bands and labels to be aware of the photo credit issue. Basically, if the photo was taken as a publicity shot and has no attribution, no photo credit is necessary from a publication, either in print or online. So my advice to photographers is that if you are adamant that you require a photo credit when your photo is used in any capacity, you need to make that perfectly clear in writing to the band, record label, etc. Make sure the band or user understands your position on the subject. I said in writing. Verbal agreements aren’t enough.

So bands, this applies to you: you want your songwriting credits and your photographer probably wants their photo credits. So be aware. Take care of the photographers who make you look good.

Photographers: also be aware that if most pubs use a publicity photo and there’s nothing indicating that a photo credit is required, it’s not gonna happen. So it’s up to you to make sure the band, label, manager, etc. knows your requirements, and that all your photos are metatagged electronically. It’s your responsibility to take care of your rights, just as it is a musician to take care of the various rights that are due for songwriting, play and use.

A word to the wise…


Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!