Beware the Photo Stealers, II

February 7th, 2013

This is the conclusion to the article series, this week we explore those diabolical creations designed to take your best photos from you and make them their own.

Part II
You may think that a Photo Contest is a really good thing…you get a prize and everyone gets to see your best work. However, you could be completely wrong…

Most people do not read the fine print in the rules when they enter a photo contest. They think “hey, I’ve got something that might win, people will see my work, and plus they’ve got some nice gear as a prize!”

Let’s say that you even win the photo contest. You get some cool gear, the people on the website congratulate you, and your friends think you’ve got it made. You see your photo splashed all over their website…your work crowning everything.

Then you see them selling other things with your pictures. Cups, tshirts, cards…and more. And when you ask them where your cut is, they point out to you a little paragraph in the contest rules that you skipped in your haste to upload a cool photo.

That paragraph read: “You retain ownership of the entry you submit, however, by entering you, on behalf of yourself and any Third Party Participants, grant Contest Entities and any organizations affiliated with the sponsorship, fulfillment, administration, prize support, advertisement or promotion of the contest, the perpetual, fully-paid, irrevocable, non-exclusive license to publish, reproduce, prepare derivative works of, distribute, display, exhibit, transmit, broadcast, televise, digitize, otherwise use, and permit others to use and perform throughout the world the photograph and Entry in any manner, form, or format now or hereinafter created, including on the Internet, and for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising or promotion of Contest Entities and Contest all without further consent from or payment to you, including those entry which were not selected for the semifinals.” (this was copied from a real website’s rules and modified slightly to make more sense and remove actual names)

You may or may not understand any or all of the above paragraph, but in short, it reads like this in Human Tongue…

Any photo you submitted to this website for this contest is still owned by you…however, by doing this, you have granted us the full rights to do whatever we want with your photo, make any money from it we can (or even modify it) and we can sell or distribute it to anyone we want.

So technically, even though you still ‘own’ the rights to the photograph…you have basically transferred most of those rights to the company running the contest. The only thing they cannot do is stop you from re-selling your image to someone else. You cannot stop them from doing anything with your photo, including modifying it (creating derivative works of) which they would then own the copyright to.

Think you just had a nightmare? Of seeing your best work getting taken, used and paid to someone else? Be very careful when you submit your work to photo contests…and don’t expect that just because it’s a good ‘well-known’ company that they won’t do that.

Here’s an excerpt from National Geographic’s photo contest rules. “By entering the Contest, all entrants grant an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide non-exclusive license to Authorized Parties, to reproduce, distribute, display and create derivative works of the entries (along with a name credit) in connection with the Contest and promotion of the Contest, in any media now or hereafter known, including, but not limited to: Display at a potential exhibition of winners; publication of a book featuring select entries in the Contest; publication in National Geographic magazine or online highlighting entries or winners of the Contest. Entrants consent to the Sponsor doing or omitting to do any act that would otherwise infringe the entrant’s “moral rights” in their entries. Display or publication of any entry on an Authorized Party’s website does not indicate the entrant will be selected as a winner. Authorized Parties will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such use. Additionally, by entering, each entrant grants to Authorized Parties the unrestricted right to use all statements made in connection with the Contest, and pictures or likenesses of Contest entrants, or choose not to do so, at their sole discretion. Authorized Parties will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such use.

Sounds pretty similar, right? It is…basically, they have the right to do whatever they want with your photo after you submit it for the contest. They even include a clause that they can step on your ‘moral rights’ as well (in case you felt like they weren’t hitting you hard enough).

Now..for a site like Nat Geo, you may consider the loss of a few images worthwhile in an attempt to be a famous photographer. If so, please name other Nat Geo photographers you know.

Probably…most of you cannot.

However, that’s not to say that being published by Nat Geo may not be a good thing, and it’s something you’ll have to weigh yourself. But consider again that you’ve basically lost control of your best work by sending it to them. And…if it’s NOT Nat Geo publishing your photos…what’s your chances of getting recognition from any other site?

For my work, I don’t intend on allowing others the free use of my good photos, especially considering that their payment probably won’t match up with what they are giving me as a prize. And frankly, I just enjoy photography…if I don’t make it to the top…oh well, I still enjoy taking pictures!

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