"We want your stuff but we don't want to pay."

Commercial Photo Contests


Occasionally, though not often anymore, I consider entering a commercially sponsored photography contest. Each time that I do, I am hopeful that the conditions and terms of entering will be legitimate. They aren't. These contests consistently prove to be a "rights grab" without compensation to photographers, whether or not their work earns an award.

I have no problem granting non-exclusive rights without compensation for awarded images. But giving away those rights merely by entering? No way! If a photograph is good enough for one or more of the litany of uses described in the agreement, then it's good enough for the photographer to receive compensation.

Below are several bits of text from "agreements" upon entering contests. Red italics are mine, added to assist in showing how ludicrous these terms can be.

Smithsonian Magazine

By entering the contest, entrants grant the Smithsonian Institution, and those authorized by the Smithsonian, a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual, non-exclusive license to display, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works of the entries, in whole or in part, in any media now existing or subsequently developed, for any educational, promotional, publicity, exhibition, archival, scholarly and all other standard Smithsonian purposes. Any photograph reproduced will include a photographer credit as feasible. The Smithsonian Institution will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such uses.

Wow! In addition to all the other grabs they make, they could sell your photographs to "those authorized by the Smithsonian" and you get nothing.

National Geographic

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 Traveler 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.

"Moral rights?" They're telling us about moral rights? The whole thing smacks of fraud to me, and well it might be were it not that people are volunteering to give up the rights to their work. Sure, what they're proposing is legal, but they've got plenty of gall to bring up moral issues in the arrangement.

Popular Photography

GENERAL RULES & LIMITATIONS: By entering, you represent that: (i) your entry is your own original work; and (ii) you own or have the rights to convey any and all right and title in any material submitted as part of your entry into the Contest. 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 (except where prohibited by law). By participating in the Contest, you agree to release Sponsor and its parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, employees, directors, officers, and agents from any and all liability, claims or actions of any kind whatsoever for injuries, damages or losses to persons and property which may be sustained in connection with the receipt, ownership, possession, use, or misuse of any prize. Sponsor is not responsible for technical, hardware or software failures, or other errors or problems which may occur in connection with the Contest, whether computer, network, technical, mechanical, typographical, printing, human or otherwise, including, without limitation, errors or problems which may occur in connection with the administration of the Contest, the processing or judging of entries, the announcement of the prizes, in any Contest-related materials, or that may limit prize fulfillment or a participant's ability to enter the Contest. Sponsor reserves the right to amend these official rules and to permanently disqualify from the Contest any person it believes has intentionally violated these official rules.

These tightwads aren't taking responsibility for anything, including their own human errors. But that's not all: they reserve the right to amend the official rules. Just in case they think of yet another way to screw you, I guess. "Oh, sorry, we goofed. The top prize was only one-hundred dollars, not one thousand. But never mind, we've amended the rules. Here's fifty cents. Congratulations!" It appears to me that by entering the contest, you grant them the right to breach of contract.

It is agreements such as these that deter me from entering a great many contests. I have no problem granting rights if compensated by an award, but these people want everything for nothing. I won't give it to them. All together, now, say "scumbags!"

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