Would you willingly give away your copyright, even if you were not a winner and fee or royalty were low? Many “rules and regulations” for contests list some surprising, non-user-friendly clauses in their call for entries.
Local and national contests are fun, hard to win, and of course it’s not easy to choose an image that will resonate with the exact subjective intent of the judges. Lot’s of times I’ve looked at winning images and said, “If I had known what they wanted…” I’ve won enough competitions over the years that I know getting inside the head of the sponsor, judge and scope of the show is a good idea.
OK, so we know this kind of call for entries is often a bit of a crap shoot. But if you do win, nobody wants to find himself the eventual loser due to the fine print. Many times contest rules demand a total transfer of copyright ownership, disallowing even the author’s right of portfolio and editorial uses. To the pro, this is generally not acceptable, particularly if the prize is a subscription to a website or publication, tickets to a trade show or some other no-cost-to-the-sponsor award. I’ve always felt it’s totally lame when an organization says, “We’ll give you credit in our magazine and PR.”
We understand rules about content, model releases and originality. No sponsor will accept an entry that will reflect negatively on themselves. It’s also understandable that a contest sponsor will not want you to enter the same winning image they select in a competitive contest. But how about any entry, even those that do not win? Did you know that some contests demand the right to do a background check without limitation on you the artist?
I’ll admit in the past I may not have read the small print with sufficient care. Here’s one currently going on that stopped me from entering at all. A magazine I love established a photo contest with a good topic that will work in well with their readership and emphasis. I’ve recently gotten in the habit of reviewing contest rules, because often the cost of entry is heavily disguised until you get right down to the bottom part of the entry form.
Well, these rules blew me away. Here is partial direct quote from their website.
6. Rights Definition: As used in these Official Rules, the term “Rights” shall mean rights of copyright, patent rights, trademark and service mark rights, publicity rights, trade secret rights, character rights, rights in routines, trade dress rights, and all other proprietary rights of any kind whatsoever, together with any and all applications, registrations, renewal and extension rights, and rights to sue for any past, present, or future infringement or violation.
9. Right to Use Name, Likeness, and Other Identifying Information: By entering a Submission, each entrant hereby irrevocably consents to the display, performance, and other use by Sponsors and its successors and assigns of his/her name; image; likeness; voice; Submission; biographical information; statements and quotes; stories and anecdotes provided; all of his/her other personal or commercial attributes or identifying features for any purposes related to this Contest. All entrants, winning and non-winning hereby waive any and all rights of publicity and rights of privacy associated with Sponsors’ use of a Likeness. Winning entrants shall have no right of approval, no claim to compensation, and no claim (including, without limitation, claims based on invasion of privacy, defamation, or right of publicity) arising out of any use, blurring, alteration, or use in composite form of a Likeness. The rights granted under this paragraph are without compensation or notification to the entrant of any kind, except as required by law, and shall extend to all Submissions, all other materials submitted by entrant, and all other materials developed in connection with the Contest, regardless of whether they are developed by the entrant or another person or entity.
10. Sponsors’ Control over Submissions; Background Check: Each Submission must be in good taste and consistent with Sponsors’ positive images and may not be offensive or inappropriate, as determined by Sponsors in their sole discretion. No Submission may infringe or otherwise violate the Rights or privacy of any person (living or deceased) or entity. All entrants and Submissions are subject to verification by Sponsors. Sponsors reserve the right to conduct background checks on any or all entrants, which may include, without limitation, civil, criminal, employment, education, and financial background checks. Sponsors reserve the right to disqualify any entrant based on such background checks if Sponsors determine in their sole discretion that awarding a prize to any such entrant might reflect negatively on Sponsors. Entrants will cooperate with Sponsors and their respective representatives in connection with any and all verification and background check activities, including, without limitation, signing and delivering background check authorizations.
18. Disputes/Choice of Law: Each entrant agrees that the Contest shall be governed by the laws of the State of California and: (1) any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of or connected with the Contest shall be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action, and exclusively by state or federal courts situated in California; (2) any and all claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, but in no event attorneys’ fees; (3) no punitive, incidental, special, consequential or other damages, including without limitation lost profits may be awarded (collectively, “Special Damages”); and (4) each entrant hereby waives all rights to claim Special Damages. Under no circumstances shall Sponsors’ aggregate liability to any entrant of the Contest exceed One Dollar ($1.00).
Here’s my letter to the editor:
As an avid reader and contemporary building advocate, I was eager to enter the current contest – until reading the fine print.
Most photographers would find it unacceptable to give up entire rights to any image without significant payment. Joint copyright is a much fairer way to go, with the proviso that the maker will not enter a winning entry in other contests. The maker should always retain the right of named authorship, and rights to use as portfolio, noting the award given. The word “winning” is also important in that images that are simply entries should be handled differently from winners in terms of contractural obligation and copyright.
From a strictly business angle, the announced monetary value of prizes to be awarded would generally be thought of as insufficient to warrant a complete transfer of copyright. Subscriptions and entry tickets are ok, but artists do not consider these items as remuneration. I’ve twice won national awards from Hallmark contests; they know what is appropriate $$ for buy out – even in today’s market.
As an expert in press printed books, I note that the (deleted) company has a good vision of a community of artists able to sell to a wide audience through the library. However, I have found over time and in comparison with other providers, (deleted) is not at the highest level of quality of publication and artist assistance (through development software and customer service). Price/performance is another issue.
I applaud your magazine for an innovative contest idea, and would wish for both a better partner and a more realistic copyright rule.
The bottom line:
If you sign off on this kind of small print reported here, it means that you the artist are willing to populate the sponsor’s web, print and any other PR with your work for free! So how much did your equipment cost? Your training? Your dedication over years? The food for your table? My opinion: this is a crock!