There has been a dust up recently over photo contests and the cost of actually entering an image in hopes of winning a prize. I’m not referring to entry fees, but the cost of giving away all your rights to your prized photographs. Blog reader Andrew Graham from Belgium pointed me to this article (click here) from the Sydney Morning Herald about how many mainstream photo contests are burying clauses in their Terms of Agreements (TOA) that, in essence, take away all rights to submitted photographs and claim them for themselves. This means that the companies that are running the contests are free to use or sell the submitted images without compensation given to the photographer. Most of the contests are aimed at amateur photographers that are so excited at the prospect of winning the contest that they fail to read the TOA. It doesn’t help that many of the TOAs are written by lawers and are often confusing and filled with so much legal-speak that it is hard to decipher just what you are getting yourself into.
Earlier this week, Super Blogger David Ziser, wrote about an appearance he made on the PhotoNetCast podcast (click here to see his post) where he participated in a round-table discussion that covered this very issue. David, like most of us, finds it hard to believe that so many people would willingly or unknowingly trade away their rights. If you think the problem is just with small contests, you would be wrong. In 2005, Microsoft ran their FuturePro contest with a TOA that read in part:
By submitting your Entry, you grant Sponsor and Administrators an irrevocable royalty-free, worldwide right, in all media (now known or later developed) to use, publish, alter or otherwise exploit your Entry.You hereby forever release the Sponsor and Administrators from any and all claims you might have in connection with their use and exhibit of your Entry as set forth above. You also agree to sign any necessary documentation to effectuate that license and release.
There was such a public outcry of contempt for the TOA that Microsoft was forced to change the rules, leaving the rights to images intact for the photographers. So the bottom line is that while you might be excited about showing off your great image in hopes of winning a prize, be wary that you might be filling the stock photo coffers of some corporation without any further compensation to you.
If you are wondering where to find more information about which contests are protecting your rights, check out this link provided by David Ziser to Pro Imaging International. They are committed to disecting those TOAs and determining which contests are really in your best interest.