The gravediggers of photojournalism

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Photojournalists refuse to cooperate with Jahreszeiten publishing house.

Since March, the Jahreszeiten publishing house has been like a red rag to a bull for photojournalists. All divisions of the publishing house have since submitted a new agreement that not only photojournalists find appalling. Because the contractual terms and conditions represent an extreme restriction of their rights and are to be ruthlessly imposed, the policy of the publishing house has met with a massive wave of protest from photographers and photo agencies.

The Ganske publishing group includes the Jahreszeiten publishing house, featuring magazines such as  "Für Sie", "Petra", "Selber machen", "Merian", "Der Feinschmecker" as well as "Architektur und Wohnen". At present, the publishing group appears to be focusing in particular on depriving photographers of their rights. By means of the general agreement presented for photo productions, the publishing house wants to have exceptionally extensive rights of photographers transferred to it,
even though publisher Thomas Ganske professes to be a protector or champion of intellectual property rights. For instance, he was a prominent signatory of the so-called Heidelberg Appeal, according to which: "Authors and publishers reject all attempts and practices to undermine the fundamental intellectual property rights to literature, art and science, the fundamental right to freedom of research and teaching as well as freedom of the press and publication." In the process, Ganske commits himself to the intellectual property rights of publishers - while curtailing those of photographers wherever he can.

For instance, the Jahreszeiten publishing house (or "Jalag") is trying to acquire ownership rights to the original photographic material supplied, namely of all photographs taken in the course of an assignment. With the aid of contractual clauses, photographers are simultaneously to be deprived of their right to dispose of their photographs as they wish, a right enshrined in legislation. The aim is to allow only the publishing house to determine the use of such photographic material.

The wording of the Heidelberg Appeal - supported by Thomas Ganske - is completely different, however: "It must be left up to the authors, artists, scientists - in short: all creative individuals - to decide whether and where their works are published in future. Any compulsion, any force to publish something in a certain form is just as unacceptable as political tolerance vis-à-vis pirated copies of the kind being massively produced by Google at present."

"By wanting to have all copyrights and similar rights of use to photographs, the Ganske publishing group is depriving photographers of their rights in an unprecedented fashion" says Lutz Fischmann in commenting on the approach being adopted by the management of the publishing house. He is the general manager of FREELENS, the association of photojournalists comprising more than 1800 members. Should photographers sign the agreement, they will be left with absolutely nothing - not even the possibility of marketing their works later in the form of archive photographs.  This is because the contractual clauses are intended to secure free-of-charge use in all print and online objects of the publishing house. This would make untold publications possible for many years, in return for only a modest work fee that merely covers single, non-recurring use. "This is a sell-out at the expense of the photographers," says Lutz Fischmann.

Moreover, the publishing house demands compulsory syndication in placing its orders - in other words, it reserves the exclusive right to further marketing. As part of today’s fees, the use of archive material accounts for a substantial share of the basis of photojournalists’ livelihood.  Most photographers placed this secondary marketing option into the hands of photo agencies (to which they are contractually bound) a long time ago.

However, the main issue here is not only payment for photographic work, but photographers being deprived of their rights, a process that other media organisations also want to implement step by step. "With its pioneering role, the Jahreszeiten publishing house is making itself the gravedigger of photojournalism" says the general manager of FREELENS. "This general agreement turns everything upside down that used to be the basis for cooperation between photographers and publishing houses in the past." The publishing house evidently plans to push through its terms and conditions with all its might. Photojournalists report that they were left no alternative when it came to photographic assignments. ‘We appoint photographers only on these terms - and contractual amendments are ruled out,’ as reported.

In other words: there is absolutely no other option.

The fact that the Ganske group of publishers wants to dictate terms and conditions to photographers, attended by unmistakable threats - is meeting with a massive wave of rejection. Hundreds of photographers have already refused to accept the contractual terms and conditions and to cooperate with the publishers - a long list that reads like the "Who is Who" in the world of photojournalism. Moreover, quite a few photographers have instructed their photo agencies to prohibit the publishing group to use their archive photographs at present.

"All photographers and photo agencies who want to give the Jahreszeiten publishing house a clear indication that contractual terms and conditions of this kind are unacceptable are welcome to join our initiative", runs the message of the FREELENS manager to the entire photography business.

So far, the management has responded to the protest with platitudes. In reply to a letter from FREELENS, general manager Thomas Ganske wrote: "I look forward to constructive cooperation in future. We on our part will do everything we can to ensure that the top-quality magazines can continue to be released by our publishing house." The question is whether they will still contain top-quality photographic material, however.

"Constructive collaboration cannot work by unilateral decree. We hope the management of the publishing house will also realise this - we, at any rate, are open to negotiations," says Lutz Fischmann. Whether the Jahreszeiten publishing house will be able to continue presenting itself as an "attractive platform for the esteemed work of its members", as Thomas Ganske writes to FREELENS, is unclear – at present it certainly has lost its attractiveness.

FREELENS was established in 1995 by 128 photo journalists to rectify the progressively worsening conditions under which they were forced to work. Today, the professional association has over 1,850 members, making it the largest group of photo journalists in Germany.


Steinhoeft 5, 20459 Hamburg, Germany, phone +49-40-300664-0, Fax +49-40-300664-20,,

1 Kommentar zu „The gravediggers of photojournalism“

  1. JM sagt:

    The obvious answer is to make a list of every advertiser in the publisher’s magazine group and start a letter-writing protest directly to the advertisers. Take out ads in other publications to shame these advertisers publicly. Be very loud and aggressive. Make it messy. Make the advertisers look bad for supporting these thieves. The only thing the publishers understand is financial feedback from their advertisers - their own livelihood.