Garbage photo : Pat Pope

Garbage photo : Pat Pope

The great Garbage v Pat Pope debate has thrown up a lot of question marks in the past few days and a fierce debate.

When the band asked the photographer if they could use one of his photos they had previously paid for in an upcoming book he wrote an open letter in reply. he felt they should pay for it again so he could make a living. They felt they had already paid for it.

It caused an internet meltdown.

It also throws up a whole debate over the rights issue.

A real case of who owns who.

If you are a musician is your image owned by the photographer, do you feel that in a time when your music is stolen endlessly that there must be something you can hang on to an own? if you are photographer is it the same situation?

In the case of Garbage v Pope, they felt that they had paid for the shot and were politely asking if they could use it again – most big bands would not even have asked. For the photographer it was another example of the art being not being treated properly in a internet time when all music and art has less and less value.

All artists should be paid was the bottom line.

But who creates the art.

Is this the ultimate in blurred lines?

Many great rock photos are the product of a great photographer but what about a bad photo of a great band – who creates the magic there? is it the band’s cultural cache that makes the photo more important? what about the great photos of rubbish bands that no-one cares about – those photos are worthless? is it the band’s own musical creativity or their creativity in creating their image that gives the photo its value? or is the situation as black and white as that? is it a mixture of the two parties?

This is a complex issue with no clear dividing line and a debate that is sure to rumble on…

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  1. Like many things in life, ideally there is a balance and both sides add to the total and it’s greater than its parts.

    Let’s be clear here though, in terms of the photograph, legally it belongs to the photographer (the creator/the copyright holder) unless prior agreement is made.

    As all in the music industry have found, people are increasingly wanting something for nothing (or at best very little). What happens as a result is that the bands normally ask for a licence to use the images in a specific way. This is the cheapest option as buying all rights to the photograph, including not only the right to use it how you want but also to “own” it and sell it on to others costs much more as the photographer has no future income.

    If Garbage bought those rights in the first place then there would be NO obligation on them to ask Pat if they could use the photograph in a book, therefore it is a fair conclusion drawn by Pat Pope when he felt they were asking for something that has value to be given for free.

    We are used to licencing as music buyers. If we bought an LP (ask your parents what one of those is if it’s not a familiar term) we were not buying that music in any/every form, so when the band released their album as a CD or an MP3 we had to re-licence for the new format.

    Should Pat have made such a public display where a simple no would have sufficed? On the surface of it, no, however more and more these days everyone including artists are expecting photographs for free or a “Proper Credit” and associated “Exposure”. Pat is a professional photographer of many years standing, he doesn’t need the exposure and knows full well that the exposure doesn’t bring more business your way, it just leads to more people asking for images for free.

    He took a stand and I admire him for that. In history there are many that took a stand for causes they felt strongly about. Did the first black person who took a “white” seat in the restaurant need to make their protest so publicly, after all they were no longer slaves, wasn’t that enough?

    I am not judging the two acts to be of similar weight, just using an extreme example to illustrate a point that at some stage somebody has to stand up and be counted even if it to their detriment.

  2. To distill this – I paid to see Garbage in 1996 at Brixton Academy and for the “garbage” and “Version 2.0” and the greatest hits CD shindig with all the remixes on. Using the Garbage argument, in the broadest strokes, doesn’t this mean I get a free ticket for the anniversary show later this year?

  3. Notwithstanding that a band or musician’s fame will make any images of them more valuable to the market the creator of a work of art (or intellectual property) owns the copyright and ergo the ‘rights’ to usage of the work. Therefore in the absence of an agreement to surrender copyright to “Garbage” the only thing they own is the one time rights to the original usage of the photograph. A different usage such as in a book requires a new usage rights agreement in order to publish the work. That’s it. Fini. So they need to pay him to put it in the book or to just go quietly about their other legitimate business.


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