In the ongoing saga over photographers rights; who can shoot what, who owns the rights to the photograph once it has been shot, can this or that be shot at all; Lady GaGa is weighing in when it comes to photographs taken of her at her concerts.  Having recently scoured the internet for a photography licensing agreement for my own photography I am very familiar with the complexity of these documents and this issue.  Although my familiarity in no way implies authority, it is not an easy topic for the novice or non-legal mind to comprehend.

In general, when a photographer photographs a subject, he or she owns the copyrights to those photographs.  Then through various degrees of complexity and legalese he or she can license, grant, sell, give away, the right to use those photos for a myriad of purposes while still retaining the copyrights.  Models, celebrities, and sometimes the average Joe/Jane also sign photography release forms stating that the person appearing in the picture has authorized consent to be photographed.  In the case of architectural photography the property owner will sign a release authorizing consent to have their property photographed.  So in the end the person being photographed grants permission to be photographed, the photographer grants someone the right to use those photographs for various purposes and the copyright remains the property of the photographer.

So after the signing of a few legal documents and all the basic agreements shooting can commence.  In the recent case of pop singer Lady GaGa however, she has thrown a wrench into the standard photo release form for professional photographers at her concerts.  The main difference is that GaGa’s release signs over all copyrights to Lady GaGa, taking what has traditionally been owned by the photographer or their employers and giving it to the artist.

There are valid arguments on both sides of this issue, with the definition of validity taking on different meanings depending on which side you take.  The artist and their representatives argue that being the subject of the photo entitles them full ownership.  The photographer community argues that the hard work and creative license on the part of the photographer,a long with the free press the photos generate for the artist, should keep full copyright in the possession of the photographer.

This is a debate that is going to rage on for some time.  It may seem simple that as an art form, the artist owns the rights to the work they create.  But as photography has moved into the digital age and “photographers” are more and more prevalent the gray areas are becoming more hazy.  Lady GaGa was not the first and will not be the last to get involved in this argument.

Note, I kept all photographs of Lady GaGa out of this post, just to be on the safe side.  But you can read more about this story and see the photos to go along with it at Live Music Guide.

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