Hiding Behind Terms And Conditions - Lynne Garner

Last month I had a little rant about the Green Party and how they wanted to ‘share’ my copyright with others. Today I’m on my soapbox again, still about copyright but this time with regards to the copyright of my photographs (which I use to bolster my writing income).

A friend recently sent me a link to a photography competition being run by a charity I support. I followed the link and clicked on the terms and conditions. It was no surprise that yet another competition wanted full rights of any photograph I submitted, even if I didn’t win. This is not the first time (and I doubt the last) that I’ll read this clause in a competition. The clause was:

"By submitting your entry, you agree to grant the XXXXXX a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable right and world-wide license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, display and exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to your entry, and/or to incorporate your entry in other works, in any media now known or later developed for the full term of any rights that may exist in your entry...."

As per normal I sent an email and asked them to explain why they wanted my copyright for no return. All credit to the charity in question they responded, the first ever to do so. The reply was:

“As a charity we receive lots of great photos which help to promote our cause and the vast majority of people are happy to see their photos appear elsewhere. Wherever possible we will credit these photos.

We do include this in the terms and conditions as we feel it is in the spirit of the competition for people to see the entries coming in……it would be a shame not to share them in the future!”

As with any competition, we do set out the terms and conditions clearly so that if people are not happy with them they can make the choice not to enter.”

Ok so my thoughts on the reply:

I couldn’t find any mention of crediting the photographer if they decided to use their photograph.

The clause is not just about sharing it’s about making money from something they haven't paid for. I’m happy to support charities that do such important work, in fact I run my own not-for-profit group that rescues sick,injured and orphaned hedgehogs, However I'm reluctant to support them if they can't be open about the real reason for running the competition.

I know it’s their ‘bad’ but how many people read terms and conditions? Of those people who do read them who understands the implications of such a clause? Before I started to make a living from writing and photography I didn't.

So my reply:

If you want to make money from photographs or anything creative entered into a competition then that’s great. But please don’t hide behind the terms and conditions. Be up front. Perhaps when advertising the competition use something along the lines of ‘support the great work we do by donating your photographs/short stories/poems and in return one lucky supporter will win….

Rant number two over – and yes again I feel much better.



Susan Price said…
Lynne, I had no idea photography competitions did that! It's outrageous. It's like a publisher saying, 'If you submit your work to us, we reserve the right to refuse it and pay you nothing, but still publish it and make money from it, in whatever form we please, until kingdom come, still without paying you anything at all.'

And the excuse that it's 'for charity'?

Charity is something I choose to do, not something sneakily imposed. Theft and robbery are not charity.
Nick Green said…
Maybe one should submit all entries with one's own terms and conditions, in very small print, explaining that if they fail to award you first prize, they are legally obliged to compensate you to the tune of a lifetime supply of Lindt chocolate.
Lots of writing competitions and even some magazines have taken to doing that too. I've noticed it creeping in, especially in competitions for new writers where publication without remuneration is seen as a prize in itself and where people are often too inexperienced to know what else they might be giving up - i.e. all their rights, in exchange for publication. The SoA is onto this at the moment. They note that some of the T&Cs are clearly drawn up by lawyers with only the interests of the host organisation in mind - and with no regard to the writers. Looks like the same thing is happening with photographers. It should be a licence for a limited number of uses and in a specific place. That's the way it used to be.
Lydia Bennet said…
I"m afraid big charities these days are pretty awful and many of the larger ones seem to exist purely to raise money which is then invested in dodgy companies to make more money, to pay for more fundraising, while the bosses and admin people are very well paid and lots of devoted people actually 'on the ground' give their work for nothing. Note how big charities advertise for money to 'raise awareness' when we already are aware and this can be interpreted as 'spend more on advertising to raise more money to invest in things like arms and tobacco'. This kind of copyright appropriation is typical of the modern mindset, the 'chugging' that drove that poor old woman to suicide after a lifetime raising money for charities. We are better off supporting local charities like Lynn's hedgehogs! A timely warning.
Anonymous said…
They could so simply add a tick box that gave them permission to use an image and credit the photographer by name even if they didn't win, for the purpose of promoting the competition.
Or a tick box that said you would prefer for your image not to be used in other ways if you did not win.

But both of these would have made people think about what they were handing over...
Sadly so many competitions try to hoodwink people by claiming rights to use submitted work even if it isn't the winner. In some cases they need the 'right' as they wish to display entries on their website to promote votes, or similar, but the wording of the clause could easily limit such use to that need.

A similar problem happens with illustration when people submit designs for a "competition" or to gain a commission. The competition organiser gets loads of free design ideas they could fall back on and get reproduced professionally, whilst choosing one 'winner' that they might not even use. A very cheap brainstorming solution!
Lynne Garner said…
Thanks for the feedback folks - so pleased to read I'm not the only annoyed by this.

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