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Author: Rob Cottingham

This is my favourite news story in a long time. At a concert last Saturday in Quebec City, the Foo Fighters demanded that news photographers sign a contract allowing news outlets to print their photos exactly once, after which over all rights to those photos would pass to the band’s management company. Photographers would never see another dime, or even necessarily get credit.

Oh, and according to Global News, Foo Fighters’ management had the right to nix any photos before publication.

So how did Quebec City newspaper Le Soleil respond?

By hiring sketch artist and cartoonist Francis Desharnais to draw the band in action. (Desharnais’ vivid, expressive live sketches from past events should make him a natural choice for illustrating a concert, onerous contract or not.)

According to the newspaper’s Geneviève Bouchard,

The restrictions imposed on photographers are common in the concert world, and the Festival d’été is no exception. Other than the demands of Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars, who simply refused to allow professional photographers at their concert, the contract imposed by the Foo Fighters is one of the strictest we’ve ever seen at the Festival d’été de Québec. (my translation)

For Desharnais’ part, he seems a little surprised at the response to his sketches, which blew up on Twitter and made headlines overseas.

Two thoughts here:

First, we have a metric crap-tonne of extremely talented cartoonists around, any number of them ready and more than willing to take on a sketching gig at a concert. And while live sketching can’t hope to capture the detail and realism of a photograph, it can sometimes do more to capture the tone and spirit of the event. I’d love to see more outlets bringing cartoonists in for events like this, on their own or alongside photographers.

(Think about what Liza Donnelly has done with events like the Oscars. Also, if you think this is self-serving, bear in mind I have young-ish kids and haven’t been to a concert in years. In. Years.)

And second, while Le Soleil is right to roll its eyes at the overreach of “throughout the universe” language, phrases like that are old hat to freelancers who’ve been presented with strikingly similar contract provisions by Canadian newspapers. It doesn’t look quite so appealing from the other side of the signature line, does it?

(Hat tip to my friend Neil Polowin for pointing me to this story!)


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