Monday, May 03, 2010

Along Came a Rights Grab...

Orb Weaver-71

I rarely post anything negative on my blog but I have decided today to take a bit more of a proactive approach in educating/warning my fellow photographers as well as some of my non photographer blog readers to some things that I don't think are right in the photography world. Honestly there aren't many. Most of the community whether professionals or beginners are very nice and willing to share their knowledge and experiences as a photographer. My first profession is as an attorney and after taking some classes and falling in love with Intellectual Property law I educated myself as much as possible since these laws had a major impact on my #2 profession photography.

My #1 problem with this business that I have only dipped my toe into is the infringement of a photographer's work. Straight up stealing. Up until a week ago I did not have any personal experience of having a photo stolen. That changed quickly and if not for a friend and an internet forum I still may not have known about it. Speaking of straight up stealing, my #2 problem is the rights grab, specifically in the realm of "photo contests." Thanks to reading the Photo Attorney's blog and her book I am way more educated and understand the rights a photographer has and how people and companies attempt to steal a photographer's work for free while making a strong profit.

If you look at the "Travelographer of the Year Contest" it looks pretty cool. Flashy web page sponsored by a very popular photo magazine and some pretty large camera gear manufacturers, nice web page layout, and wow look at those prizes:

- 1 grand prize: 6 night stay for two all inclusive vacation $3,420 value with a lot of cool perks


- 5 second place prizes: Olympus E-PL1s with 14-42mm lens; approximate retail value $599.00 (yay?)

As a photographer you may say "heck yeah where do I sign up?" - hold on a sec. Before entering a contest like this be sure to click the rules section as it may wake you up a bit if you can sift through all of the legal mumbo jumbo.

Fortunately for us, Popular Photography magazine doesn't beat around the bush in their thinly veiled attempt at a photo rights grab as the rules section is relatively short and straightforward.

Here are some highlights:

- All submitted entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned

- There is a ten dollar ($10) fee to submit one (1) photograph into the contest, and a fifteen dollar ($15) fee to submit two (2) to five (5) photographs to enter the contest. (Awesome! So not only are you not going to pay me for the rights to my work, I'm going to pay YOU to take them!). That's like you paying me to punch you in the face.

and finally the icing on the cake:

- By entering, you grant to Sponsor a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to edit, publish, promote, republish at any time in the future and otherwise use your submission, along with your name and likeness, in any and all media for any purpose, without further permission, notice or compensation.

Wow. So in short:

1. You pay them to enter their contest
2. Every photo you enter is no longer yours (whether you win or not!)
3. The "sponsor" now has a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to
- edit
- publish
- promote
- republish at any time in the future with your name/likeness in any/all media for ANY purpose WITHOUT further permission, notice or COMPENSATION

Now lets run the numbers. Before I delve too much into this, I'm a lawyer, I don't do math, nor do I like math so forgive me in advance for anything that may be incorrect here.

Let's take a super conservative guess and say that 20,000 photographers enter the contest and only enter one image each. With a publication of this size that's really not much of a stretch. That alone with the $10 entry fee we are already at $200,000. The "sponsor's" total cost (if the trip and gear wasn't donated to the magazine): $6,415 for a total profit of....................


not to mention the tens of thousands if not more of stock images they have acquired while charging $10 for each "entry."

Must be nice. Clearly, I'm in the wrong business.

This is a textbook (and horrible) rights grab. Popular Photo Magazine and American Photo Magazine along with their editors, photographers, and sponsors should be ashamed. What is being promoted and achieved from this "contest" is destroying the photography community that we all enjoy as we celebrate and share our work while being properly compensated for it.

The fact that a magazine that I subscribe to would even think of participating in such a joke has already made me reconsider my upcoming subscription renewal. I have also taken a look at sponsors/advertisers of the magazine. Sony, Tamron, Fuji Film, Popular Science, Sanyo, Mentor Series etc. I'm looking at YOU! If the magazine you are advertising with is going to be associated with this kind of thievery, I refuse to send my money (or work) your way either. Period. I also encourage, and challenge, the photographers that are listed or featured in this publication or are in any way associated with it to use your influence to help make the rules to these "contests" more fair to everyone involved. I won't name names but you know who you are.

I honestly wish I had more readers so I can get the word out about this (and other) ridiculous photo rights grabs, but maybe some of my friends will help get the word out! I am not telling you to not enter into this competition or any other "photo contest" but I implore you to read and understand the rules and ramifications involved in submitting your photos. Prove you aren't as uneducated about your rights as they think you are!

Finally, if you feel that your work is good enough for first or second prize in this contest, there is likely someone or quite a few people willing to properly compensate you for your hard work.

Know your rights! Thanks for stopping by and spread the word!


Ang said...

Thank you Tim for your post! :)

AlexM said...

Very informative. I really don't see a reason why more photo contests couldn't drop the intellectual rights. It reminds me of the World Series of Poker's demand that participation requires you to sign your image away as their intellectual property, and allows them to take a few bites out of profit you derive efforts... from fame acquired by playing in the WSOP. It's really not necessary. Great post.