Queens Of The Stone Age: The True Meaning of Era Vulgaris

QOTSA Copyright Grabbing Contract

Wikipedia tells us that the latest Queens Of The Stone Age album, Era Vulgaris refers to the Latin term for Common Era.  The entry continues by saying that the title was chosen by Josh Homme because he thought “it sounds like ‘the Vulgar Era’, which I like, because that sounds like something that I would like to be part of…”.

After last Thursday experiences I can confirm that Mr Homme is definitely part of ‘the Vulgar Era’ he so wants to belong to…

 My Thursday went as follows:

  1. Promoter rings me up at about 3pm and says be there at 9:15pm;
  2. Get there at 9:15pm and notice the signs saying that their set starts at 10pm;
  3. The box office call through to the tour manager/promoter rep/whoever, who tells them to tell me to come back at 9:30pm;
  4. Come back at 9:30pm, guy turns up, hands me a one page contract with very little white space on it;
  5. Start reading. Guy tells me it’s non-negotiable;
  6. Get to Clause 2; it says I transfer copyright to them for use throughout the universe for whatever use they want etc;
  7. I tell the guy this. He smugly tells me that I can use the photo once in the named publication but ‘they’ (whoever they is; I couldn’t actually find it on the contract…) own the photos;
  8. Guy tells me sign or I’m not coming in;
  9. I tell him I that I don’t think I’m going to come in;
  10. Whilst in the process of folding up the contract to put in my pocket he rips it out my hands, passes it over to the box office girl;
  11. I ask can I keep the contract;
  12. He tells me to get out.

In part I felt empowered doing it, but at the same time I was very seething, although I think was mainly to do with how this guy treated me and spoke down to me.

The only other photographer there, a woman photographing for a music website, didn’t even read the contract, signed away and told me it was just a standard contract. I told her it wasn’t as you were giving them copyright. She shrugged her shoulders and walked in…  it’s kind of sad that photographers are willing to sign contracts without reading them and without caring for the rights that they have signed away.

I emailed my Editor first thing Friday morning to explain what had happened and why I wasn’t sending though any photos.  Not only did she agree with me 100%, but she sent an email of complaint to the promoter; a big deal considering it’s a major promoter. 

I don’t feel it’s a missed opportunity as the guy had already told us the pit was too small and we’d have to shoot from the staircase towards the back of the room…  but no photos, not even rubbish ones from miles from the stage to show you.  But, most importantly, no regrets whatsoever. 

Remember kids, just say no…

See a slightly bigger/more readable version here or the full contract text and discussion from the ‘Concert Photography’ Flickr group here.

6 Responses to “Queens Of The Stone Age: The True Meaning of Era Vulgaris”

  1. Xavier says:

    I occasionally take concert photographs for a music website and I went to shoot QOTSA when they came to Barcelona last february. The promoter rep for their spanish shows (a very cool girl) didn’t ask me to sign any kind of contract and we were about 5 photographers in the pit, so I guess you don’t really have to blame Josh Homme or the band for what happened to you, just the staff that surrounds them.

    But anyway, I totally agree with what you say. The guy you had to deal with was really abusive and a complete asshole.

  2. Justin says:

    Sure. Any band of that size employs management/people etc to work on their behalf and do the things that need to be done without running everything through the band and getting their ok.

    But the only name on the contract is QOTSA – the “you” that the contract is being made with (“the musical group collectively know as Queens Of The Stone Age”) and the witness signature is (“An authorized signatory o/b/o (on behalf of) Queens Of The Stone Age”). Assuming Josh Homme IS QOTSA (in that he owns the rights to the name, although in theory it could be owned by their management or even the record company), under the strictest interpretation of the contract HE owns the copyright to the photos if you signed the contract. He might not know about it, but as the benefactor of the contract (which is highly likely) there’s an element of guilty by association.

    And it gave me poetic licence to add in about what he said about “the Vulgar Era” and wanting to be a part of it 🙂

  3. Lyla says:

    That’s a lame fuckin’ contract.

    I doubt Josh knows about it, though, because there’s no way he’d stand for that shit.

  4. Sandra says:

    This worries me 🙁 I’m shooting QoTSA May 14th in St.John’s, NL and I won’t be handing over my copyright.

  5. meg sixx says:

    yeah i have heard about that happening more and more around the place, especially in sydney.

    it seems like a lot of people who are new to gig photography and gagging for access are the people who are willing to sign, and thus they are the people who will inevitably allow this sort of contract to continue.

    if all photographers said no and the bands didn’t get their all-important promo shots then those things would in large part disappear. ahhhhh ideals and theoreticals.

    great shots as usual, justin. i am enjoying your blogskillz.


  6. Justin says:

    Sandra: The Brisbane gig was the first date and although the contract has been put in front of photographers for their other headline shows (although not the V Festivals in each city) I get the feeling that I’ve been the only photographer to walk away. Everyone else has signed using the “it’s not a legal contract/its not enforceable” theory. So I guess it depends how you want to play it. Good luck, hope it goes well.

    Meg: Thanks. I’ve largely been keeping my skillz secret by blogging on myspace but thought it was about time to whore myself to the world…

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