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Author Topic: Nature Conservancy Photo Contest - A Warning  (Read 20497 times)
gdanmitchell
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« on: August 10, 2009, 03:00:38 PM »
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I just saw Micheal's quick note pointing out the Nature Conservancy Photo Contest. Being a Conservancy member myself I was interested, and since it had Michael's recommendation I thought that perhaps this contest might be free of the onerous IP rights grab terms that apply in many similar contests. So, optimistic, I visited the contest page and went straight to their terms and conditions. (Sorry, but their links don't embed well.)

I was very disappointed to find the following:

By entering the contest, you hereby grant to The Nature Conservancy (i) a nonexclusive, worldwide, irrevocable, royalty-free license to reproduce, distribute, publicly display and publicly perform the photographs you submit to The Nature Conservancy, and (ii) the right to use your name, city, state and country of residence in promotions and other publications.

Reasonable contest terms would require the WINNER of the contest to agree to certain LIMITED uses of his/her photograph in ways CLEARLY RELATED TO THE CONTEST. The problems with these terms are multiple:

1. The terms essentially grant the Nature Conservancy (a very fine and worthy organization, to be sure) a free, unlimited license to use contest photographs in ways that are not defined.

2. There is no guarantee of credit for the free use of contest photographs. If they want to use it on a book cover, they can. Calendar? Check. Advertisement? Check.

3. The worst part - the terms apply to ALL ENTRANTS, not just the winners. "By entering the contest, you hereby grant..." the license described here. Again, while I am a supporter of the Conservancy, I am not a supporter of terms that grant them a full, unlimited, cost-free license to each of the potentially thousands of photographs submitted in this contest.

4. Note that the "name, city, state and country of residence in promotions and other publications" also extends to all entrants - not just the winner.

As photographers, we really need to start calling these organizations on this stuff. It is impossible to tell the innocent cases (an overactive young contract lawyer, perhaps?) from those with more malicious intent. Folks I've spoken with at other organizations conducting similar contest have reported that their corporate attorneys are fully aware of the rights that they acquire with this and similar language. In several cases when I have contacted contest sponsors (a recent contest promoted by a well-known photo blogger - who responded with a very offensive email - and a couple by the Sierra Club - of which I've been a member for decades) the response was angry, accusative and offensive - but always coupled with a claim that "we would never do anything unethical with the photographs."

I learned that signing a contract (and that's more or less what you do when you enter a contest and agree to its terms) that says one thing when the other party to the contract says something else is a bad idea. If there is no intent to use "entrants" photographs in virtually unlimited ways, then the terms and conditions language should be changed to reflect the real intent.

I think that photo contests can be a good thing. I am positive that it is possible to construct mutually agreeable terms and conditions that properly protect both contest entrants/winners and the sponsor and their affiliates, and when this happens there can be tremendous benefits for all parties.

Please pass this on. More photographers need to hear about and understand the onerous terms of these contests.

Thanks.

Dan
« Last Edit: August 10, 2009, 03:03:26 PM by gdanmitchell » Logged

G Dan Mitchell
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« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2009, 03:58:13 PM »
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Dan -

Well noted, and in addition see: http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....showtopic=36635

I agree with your points, but I also know that the number of excellent photographers that cheerfully submit images, fully aware that they sign over all rights (even if they are not selected as 'winners'), should not be underestimated. I'm sure that these organizers can still count on good quality submissions and grab all rights at the same time - a great way for them to obtain top-notch content!

With your comments and the above-referenced NY Times comments re: Flickr it seems to me that photography goes the way of music: content (MP3s) is free or almost free, protecting rights is impossible or too expensive and the public or sponsors will only pay for assignments (concerts!).

My 2 cents.

Mark

Edit:
PS:

Yours is a very nice website, by the way!
« Last Edit: August 10, 2009, 04:01:02 PM by markhout » Logged

Chris_T
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« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2009, 08:51:29 AM »
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Quote from: gdanmitchell
As photographers, we really need to start calling these organizations on this stuff.

I learned that signing a contract (and that's more or less what you do when you enter a contest and agree to its terms) that says one thing when the other party to the contract says something else is a bad idea. If there is no intent to use "entrants" photographs in virtually unlimited ways, then the terms and conditions language should be changed to reflect the real intent.

I think that photo contests can be a good thing. I am positive that it is possible to construct mutually agreeable terms and conditions that properly protect both contest entrants/winners and the sponsor and their affiliates, and when this happens there can be tremendous benefits for all parties.

Please pass this on. More photographers need to hear about and understand the onerous terms of these contests.

Thanks.

Dan

Dan, thank you for making my day. For the longest time, I thought I was the lone crusade writing to these organizations. We really need to join forces and educate them to have some respect for our rights (fat chance?).

Here are a few more such calls:

http://www.nps.gov/nero/nhlphoto/2009EntryForm.pdf

http://www.boston.com/travel/getaways/us/s...onalparksrules/

In addition to the multiple problems you listed, I would include the following:

5. Many still ask for 300ppi submissions (for no good reason).

6. When credits are given, many would only display the names, but without any contact info.

7. Many would not clearly spell out the terms of use or mention credits would be given. Nor would they respond when inquired.

Good calls would benefit both parties, but are hard to come by. Bad calls hurt both. Many would feel ill at ease submitting their best work, and the callers would end up with the clue less or desperate.
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jasonrandolph
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« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2009, 04:34:46 PM »
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It's an issue that's not going to go away, but it is important for photographers to be informed.  We should all read the fine print every time we submit our work, and never rely on good intentions to protect it.
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Kumar
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« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2009, 09:49:41 PM »
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This site is seen by thousands of amateur and professional photographers every day. Can we have a forum where people could submit information about such rights-grabbing contests? It would be interesting to hear of contest entrants' and winners' experiences as well - whether their images were used in ads, or in areas unconnected with the contest, whether proper contact information was included with their photos, etc. Good contests which respect the photographers' rights should also be included in the scope of the forum. It could become a very valuable resource.

Kumar
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gdanmitchell
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« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2009, 11:36:21 PM »
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Quote from: Kumar
This site is seen by thousands of amateur and professional photographers every day. Can we have a forum where people could submit information about such rights-grabbing contests? It would be interesting to hear of contest entrants' and winners' experiences as well - whether their images were used in ads, or in areas unconnected with the contest, whether proper contact information was included with their photos, etc. Good contests which respect the photographers' rights should also be included in the scope of the forum. It could become a very valuable resource.

Kumar

I think this sounds like a fine idea, but some care would need to be taken about accuracy and so forth. If one was not careful, making the wrong kinds of claims might be libelous. A good course of action might be to post copies of the terms and perhaps explanations of what they meant... letting others draw conclusions.

I had a run-in with the well-known of a photo web site who was conducting such contest. I posted the terms and pointed out the problems they presented. Although the exchange between myself and an individual I'll refer to as "SB" - which included some very insulting email from "SB" - included accusations that my post was factually inaccurate, my offer to retract my post if he would tell me what was inaccurate about it was never accepted.

I will tell you that some of these sponsors get quite irate when one brings this stuff up. Although I've been a lifelong member of the Sierra Club, when I pointed out the objectionable terms of their photo contests I was subject to some very personal and angry attacks from Club representatives. Not fun stuff, and these groups don't like being questioned.

Dan
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G Dan Mitchell
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Kumar
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« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2009, 02:43:49 AM »
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[quote name='gdanmitchell' date='Aug 13 2009, 01:36 PM' post='303471']
I think this sounds like a fine idea, but some care would need to be taken about accuracy and so forth. If one was not careful, making the wrong kinds of claims might be libelous. A good course of action might be to post copies of the terms and perhaps explanations of what they meant... letting others draw conclusions.

Dan


I can see where there might be problems, but if, as you suggest, the terms and conditions of the contests are merely copied, and the offending clauses highlighted, without comment, say like this, it might work?

Kumar

EDIT UK photographers note: pro-imaging is supporting a petition to the UK government placed by PhotoLegal that asks "the UK government to enact legislation that would prohibit organisations from claiming intellectual property rights from people entering competitions."
« Last Edit: August 13, 2009, 05:30:53 AM by Kumar » Logged

Chris_T
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« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2009, 08:42:07 AM »
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Quote from: gdanmitchell
I will tell you that some of these sponsors get quite irate when one brings this stuff up. Although I've been a lifelong member of the Sierra Club, when I pointed out the objectionable terms of their photo contests I was subject to some very personal and angry attacks from Club representatives. Not fun stuff, and these groups don't like being questioned.

Dan

I experienced the same, if and when they bothered to respond. But I don't expect anything different, considering that:

- These non-profits tend to believe that they are not held accountable for anything.

- Unlike calls from galleries, calls from non-profits like the ones cited here typically do not result in monetary gains. Nor are they looking for the best work. As long as they get some submissions, they would be happy. There is little incentive for them to change their behaviors.

- Those who draft the calls may not understand or appreciate the problems pointed out to them, or if they do, they may not be in the position to make any changes. Often, they would respond that they are volunteers, as if volunteers do not need to be knowledgeable, competent and considerate.

No, I don't anticipate things will change dramatically. But there are good calls out there. And we should continue to bring those to the attention of the bad callers. Perhaps we can start sharing what we consider to be good calls.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2009, 08:44:25 AM by Chris_T » Logged
Gary Brown
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« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2009, 10:30:48 AM »
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FWIW, I get the impression that some of the non-profit "contests" are thinking in terms of volunteers and donations.

For example, the Nature Conservancy page about the contest says, at the top, "Submit Your Nature Photos Via Flickr™ to our 4th annual photo contest. Your photos will help inspire others to protect our natural world."

So perhaps it's really meant as a request for people to donate photos to the cause, and the real problem is mostly that they call it a photo contest, which normally doesn't involve donating anything. If they had called it a pledge drive seeking donated photos (asking for "volunteer photographers," more or less, versus donations of cash or other services), it would be less of an issue.
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markhout
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« Reply #9 on: August 14, 2009, 10:49:59 AM »
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Quote from: Gary Brown
So perhaps it's really meant as a request for people to donate photos to the cause, and the real problem is mostly that they call it a photo contest, which normally doesn't involve donating anything. If they had called it a pledge drive seeking donated photos (asking for "volunteer photographers," more or less, versus donations of cash or other services), it would be less of an issue.

Excellent point. I have seen such requests - see other Flickr groups, even for outright commercial purposes (I recall the Ford ads). At least it would clarify the purpose.
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tim wolcott
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« Reply #10 on: August 14, 2009, 11:57:29 AM »
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I have been working with them for the 22 years.  Doing mostly free photoshoots for them to help them preserve some lands I thought needed some help.

I even helped them design brochures and portfolios, that have raised tens of millions dollars for new preserves through grants and others monies.

Yes your right, for an organization to ask for this royalty free and use for ever, is not only a joke but down right insulting to all photographers.

Its amazing to me that we give and we help but have not gotten usually as much as a thank you in return. Afterall with all their money and fundraising, they atleast buy some rights.

We all have bills and new gear to buy.  Tim
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gdanmitchell
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« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2009, 10:21:38 AM »
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Quote from: markhout
Excellent point. I have seen such requests - see other Flickr groups, even for outright commercial purposes (I recall the Ford ads). At least it would clarify the purpose.

Regarding the "contests are really solicitations for photo donations" point... I think that in some of these cases you are correct, and that some of the individuals working on the contest imagine that photographers would be willing to "donate their work" to the cause.

The irony is that they are actually correct. I would, indeed, donate a LIMITED ONE-TIME LICENSE to use certain of my photographs to such groups. In fact, in a few rare cases I have done so - in a couple cases to the very same groups that run these contests. I'll bet that if a few of them were straight with us and asked for photographers to donate such a limited license that there are circumstances in which many of us would consider it. We would do this partly because we believe in the causes that these groups support and partly with the recognition that certain photographic placement with appropriate credit to use might constitute a reasonable "win" for both the photographer and the group.

But that isn't what happens in these contests.

There is no guarantee of any credit to the photographer. The sponsor's right to use the photo is often essentially unlimited. The sponsor's rights often extend to affiliates (including product vendors and marketing affiliates) with whom the photographer has no relationship.

Would I permit the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, one of my west coast redwood preservation groups to use one of my photographs for free in certain limited ways? Absolutely. Would I give any of them the sort of license they acquire by means of these contest terms? No!

Dan
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G Dan Mitchell
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« Reply #12 on: September 26, 2009, 06:48:13 AM »
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I suppose I am a little late to this party, but I am glad to see I am not alone in the feelings shared here.

As an aspiring photographer, I too have wanted to enter some of these contests ... until I read the language that (basically) these organizations seem to want "free photos" from photographers everywhere around the world, from which to pick and choose some real gems for their own agenda, with absolutely no benefits conferred to any photographer. Well, except a select few who 'win': they get a cup of coffee and a firm handshake for their efforts as their 'award.' (Okay, to be fair, the winner of the Nat. Geo gets a nice prize.)

Still, it is nice to know that I am not alone in my sense of outrage, and that other photographers have felt the same sense of "WTF?" that I felt, when the language of these contest rules basically strips every photographer of all his rights to his own submitted images ...

To win a contest, people are going to submit their best work, and so these contests basically ask all photographers to send them their best work, for the free unlimited use potential of the contest holders. Where is the respect for the photographer and his efforts, and where is the motivation for anyone to do that?

Jack


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« Last Edit: September 26, 2009, 06:49:30 AM by JohnKoerner » Logged
Bob Peterson
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« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2009, 12:27:37 AM »
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Quote from: Kumar
This site is seen by thousands of amateur and professional photographers every day. Can we have a forum where people could submit information about such rights-grabbing contests? It would be interesting to hear of contest entrants' and winners' experiences as well - whether their images were used in ads, or in areas unconnected with the contest, whether proper contact information was included with their photos, etc. Good contests which respect the photographers' rights should also be included in the scope of the forum. It could become a very valuable resource.

Kumar

The Photo Attorney blog is an excellent blog to reference for a somewhat ongoing discussion of rights grabs by contests. Carolyn E. Wright, the author, practices law with a primary focus on photographers.

Bob
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Chris_T
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2009, 07:45:29 AM »
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Yet another inconsiderate call from NPS.

http://www.boston.com/community/photos/raw...hy_contest.html
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markhout
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2009, 09:22:32 AM »
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Quote from: Chris_T
Yet another inconsiderate call from NPS.

http://www.boston.com/community/photos/raw...hy_contest.html

Even good old Ansel's foundation:

http://anseladamsgallery.smugmug.com/Other.../9089623_NaPur#
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ceyman
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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2009, 10:10:03 AM »
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Quote from: Chris_T
Yet another inconsiderate call from NPS.

http://www.boston.com/community/photos/raw...hy_contest.html

Chris,

If that is you who logged in to the Boston.com blog as Fairnsquare I'd be interested in what comes out of your conversation with the NPS.  It sounds like this may be a chance to bring about some change.

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JeffKohn
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« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2009, 11:20:35 AM »
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I don't see a problem with those guidelines, and I would suggest if you have a problem with them you might as well resign yourself to never entering any contest of any kind because you won't find any terms better than that. To quote:

Quote
Sponsor shall have the right to edit, adapt, and publish any or all of the Photographs, and may use them in any media in marketing or advertising related to The Contest with attribution to the name supplied at time of entry to The Contest and without compensation to the participant, his or her successors or assigns, or any other entity.
(bold emphasis mine).

This isn't a rights grab, they're not saying they can use the image for any purpose they want, or resell it, etc. They're saying it could be used in marketing for our about the contest, and they even say they'll provide a photo credit. What's to dislike about that?
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markhout
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« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2009, 11:34:40 AM »
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This is from the Ansel Adams contest rules.

"Participants, by participating in this Contest, hereby waive and release, and agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless, Sponsor, SmugMug, Inc., all contest and advertising agencies, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, distributors, and all of their respective officers, directors, employees, representatives and agents, and their respective successors and assigns (the “Indemnified Parties”), from and against, any and all rights, claims and causes of action whatsoever that they may have, or which may arise, against any of them for any liability for any matter, cause or thing whatsoever, including but not limited to any injury, loss, damage, whether direct, compensatory, incidental or consequential, to person, including death and property, arising in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from: their acceptance, possession, use or misuse of the prize in the Contest; or their participation in the Contest; or the use of the Photograph, including without limitation any claims relating to violations of the Content Restrictions."

Not very easy to read, but from what I understand there is simply no claim possible.

As noted above, this is just a reminder that everyone should read the rules and decide whether to submit based on what they feel comfortable with. I don't believe that this is a rights grab (so I agree with Jeff), but rather an agreement not to claim if images are used for any purpose by a very broad group of "Indemnified Parties".
« Last Edit: October 21, 2009, 11:37:08 AM by markhout » Logged

Chris_T
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« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2009, 11:59:54 AM »
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Quote from: ceyman
Chris,

If that is you who logged in to the Boston.com blog as Fairnsquare I'd be interested in what comes out of your conversation with the NPS.  It sounds like this may be a chance to bring about some change.

As Fairnsquare stated in that thread, his first attempt in another thread to get that blogmistress to address the copyright issue got no response:

http://www.boston.com/community/photos/raw...to_contest.html

When the blogmistress restated that "this contest does not take your copyright" for the Lowell call, as if that has any meaning, I suppose Fairnsquare couldn't help but reiterated his points. I think NPS's offer to speak with him in private may just be an attempt to pacify him. If NPS really agrees with his reasoning, they could easily reword the contest rules, or promise to do so in the future.

What we need is more photographers speaking up, like Fairnsquare and many here. If we don't act to protect our rights ourselves, we can't expect others to.
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