Well, the foxes have been put in charge of the photo contest henhouse again, this time by Popular Photography. Their “Travelographer of the Year” photo competition is another thinly-disguised rights grab similar to Frommers’ notorious contest.
Yes, the good folks at Popular Photography who depend on you, the photo enthusiast, for their bread-and-butter subscriptions have no compunction about ripping off your work. Where, you might ask, is the love? I suspect it’s left on the conference table in the Legal Department, in the folder marked “F__k ’em if They Can’t Take a Joke,” or “Their Ignorance is Our Bliss.”
Truth be told, Pop Photo has been sliding down this path for a while under their new ownership and without the guidance of the late, great Burt Keppler, and the host of real photographer friends on staff like Monica Cipnic, Mason Resnick, and the crew from that era.
Fortunately, an organization called www.pro-imaging.org is helping to call out these rights grab contests. They offer the all-type jpeg seen above that you can use as a contest-entry, calling out the organizers of these rip-off contests and offering to educate them on issues of rights and rates.
Their Bill of Rights for photography competitions is worth a read, since these contests are springing up like weeds from all quarters, and many of them have this boilerplate ripoff rights language.
This kind of pro image-creator rights activism used to be the mainstay of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) before that organization got bogged down in a lot of internecine squabbles about dues increases, director payments to one another, and gadfly censuring.
I’ve been an ASMP member since 1982, but am reconsidering renewing in 2011 because of this bureaucratic nonsense and the erosion of member benefits that seem to move in lockstep with ever-increasing dues demands.
Pro-Imaging.Org looks to be a UK-based entity and is totally non-profit and run by volunteers. The membership is £30, which is about US$50 (as opposed to ASMP’s current $335 per year). And all the money goes to the programs (photo contests are just one aspect…they deal with all types of rights-grabbing organizations), not the leadership.
It’s too soon to tell how effective Pro-Imaging.org will be in the long run, but so far, I like the cut of their jib and it’s worth my $50 to help their cause.
Hit the jump for a read of the Travelographer of the Year contest rules.
Warning….your sensibilities as an image producer are guaranteed to be offended, sometimes resulting in agita (aka “heartburn”), and general irrititability. If symptoms persist, see a lawyer!
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.
PRIVACY: By entering, you agree that the information you provide may be sent to promotional partners of the Sponsor. You may be contacted by the Sponsor and/or promotional partners with future promotional offers. Information provided by you to participate in this Contest is subject to the privacy policies of the Sponsor.
This Post Has 25 Comments
mk1 Jun 2010
So… to sum up, we can use your photograph any way we see fit for ever and ever with no further compensation to you…. AND we are going to send along all your information so our “promotional partners” can spam the hell out of you.
Hey, that’s a win-win situation if ever I’ve seen one!
Rich B1 Jun 2010
I’ve been subscribing to Pop Photo since the sixties. For the most part, I subscribe because it’s cheap and I actually pick up something worthwhile a few times a year. Not much point in renewing if this what we can expect from Bonnier.
I worked in the same building as Hachette (the former owner of Pop Photo) and used to run into Burt Keppler fairly often. He was never too busy to answer a question or just chat. I’m sure he would have told Bonnier what he thought of this “contest”.
Mark Matheny1 Jun 2010
Great info Bob, thank you for sharing. Sure is nice to see an organization working so hard for photographers rights. Can’t financially support them just yet but will gladly spread the word through any means I have.
Chris1 Jun 2010
Thank you for your diligence and vigilance on this matter. It is especially helpful to amateurs like me. I had already given up my subscription to Pop Photo due to its precipitous decline in quality. I am now particularly glad that I did so.
Ron Pordy1 Jun 2010
Bob – Thank you for your great blog and for your recent articles regarding these intellectual property rights grabs. You are also my favorite travel photographer of all time. Your images are brilliant.
However, although I share your outrage, I don’t agree that it is always or even mostly the “lawyers” or “legal department” that is behind the troubling erosion of intellectual (and privacy) rights. That’s just a cheap shot and Americans like to blame lawyers for everything that bugs them and goes wrong while they let the actual culprits buzz away behind the scenes stealing and grabbing everything in sight (Wall Street or Google anyone ….?).
America in the 21st century has capitulated to the dominance of large corporations who are setting all the rules and utilizing relentless lobbying campaigns to get their way and impose their will over the interests of individuals – whether they be photographers or any other ordinary citizen. The fault should be placed squarely where it belongs – on the business and marketing people who have drunk the Kool Aide and are at the forefront of this corporate assault on the customer and the privacy and intellectual property of photographers and all individuals. They are the ones making these business decisions and requiring people to enter into “contracts of adhesion” (like the one in the Pop Photo contest) which is a one-sided contract not negotiable by the consumer (who has no leverage but is the very person paying for the whole shabang!). These contracts of adhesion are on a “take it or leave it” basis with the consumer having no negotiating leverage and with the corporate sponsor basically saying and believing that “I, the big powerful Corporation, have all the power and you the poor pathetic consumer will do what I tell you to do and agree to my terms and pay me whatever I tell you to pay me because I know you can’t resist what I have to sell to you!”
I believe that until consumers get sick of this and say enough is enough and realize that they do have the ultimate power in the fact that they are funding the very existence of these corporations that treat them so poorly (or the government takes a breather from being lobbied to death and implements appropriate regulations that puts the individual’s interests ahead of large corporate interests) the rights grabs and erosion of basic privacy and other rights will continue unabated.
Bob1 Jun 2010
Ron: Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I wonder, though, who is it that tells the biz and marketing people what to say to poor schmo who is entering the contest (or signing an assignment contract)? Does a marketing guy know what a “contract of adhesion” is from his MBA program? Hmmn. I think not. From my interactions with large publishing corporations fighting increasingly one-sided contract terms over the last 20 years, I have heard “I just got this from legal, I can’t use you unless you sign the contract as is,” or “I have no choice, this is up to our legal department.”
Now they could just be passing the buck, but editors usually see contributors as colleagues; valued collaborators in putting out their product. “Legal” (or maybe we should say the suits in the executive suite?) look upon us as enemies to be vanquished totally. They may need us, sure, but we are in endless supply, so find the ones who will bend to the Draconian terms, and use their words or pictures.
Yes, I bash lawyers, sometimes unfairly, but they are the ones I’ve had to go to battle with as they represent the corporations with whom I am dealing, and they play rough, really rough. I’ve been blackballed by Conde Nast, and a couple of others, because I wouldn’t agree to totally unfair terms.
Maybe they are under pressure to totally decimate the “opposition” in any contract negotiation by, who, maybe the Board of Directors? Maybe the scorched earth, “winner takes all and then some” terms don’t originate in Legal.
Wherever those one-sided terms originate, in the boardroom, the executive office, or the legal department, the bottom line is that I am in total agreement with you on your conclusion! Bob
Dave Hutchinson1 Jun 2010
Bob, not only do you throw your rights out the window when you enter Pop Photo contest, you have to pay them $10 or $15 to enter their silly contest. My entry has been lying on my desk for awhile. Right now it is going to the round file! Thanks Bob, for another insightful post.
Jim Green2 Jun 2010
Its just too bad that Popular Photography (and many other magazines) don’t worry about the quality of their content rather than running sleazy competitions.
On a side note, its too bad that many photographic magazines became venues to feed gear lust rather than creating images.
Bob2 Jun 2010
In the immortal words of Dire Straits: “We got to move these refrigerators. We got to move these colour TVeeeee’s!” Bob
Ron Pordy2 Jun 2010
Bob – It is unfortunate that you and other creators of content are treated in this manner. It is like David and Goliath but too often without the mythical happy ending. I believe the lawyers are like the worker bees doing the bidding of the corporate queen bee executives – but I could be wrong. As you know there is a long tradition of this type of abuse by media companies – from the big Hollywood studios and record labels to the new media Goliaths like Google and others who abuse their leverage and seem to have little regard for intellectual property rights or privacy, unless of course it’s their own.
It may not always be clear who is behind the curtain pulling the levers this time around but it is evident that this imbalance of power and lack of principles will continue to erode the quality of creative expression and content. If people are not fairly compensated for their work the really great ones will produce less of it. Hopefully the pendulum will swing back a bit soon. It would be refreshing to see creativity rewarded with the some of the same zeal our culture reserves for corporate greed – go figure??.
There is some hope in people like you who have the artistic ability to create valuable content and to articulate themselves regarding these important issues. I visit your website often for the amazing images and wonderful discussions regarding photography -and of course your insightful commentary on these important topics. Thank you,
Bob3 Jun 2010
Ron: Thank you! Bob
weekh3 Jun 2010
Seems that it is now a standard clause for contest organisers to use your submission perpetually without paying u a single cent. Here’s a contest co-organised by national geographic channel.
Dave Block3 Jun 2010
Thanks for taking a stand against these contests! I wrote about another one of these recently – on my blog here: http://daveblockphotography.com/2010/04/16/rrs-rights-grab-photo-contests/
These things just kill me, especially when they come from companies that should be supporting the photographic community. Thanks for calling them out, and for the link to pro-imaging.org.
Matt Anderson4 Jun 2010
I’ve entered a few photographs into the “Canon – Photography in the Parks” contest, because it appears to me that they only get the rights to your photograph if you win. That’s more typical of a contest, right?
Here’s a link in case you want to read the rules yourself.
Thanks for the information!
Carolyn E. Wright4 Jun 2010
Not all lawyers are bad, right, dear friend? 😉
Thanks for your great blog post on this. From my research on rights grabs contests, it appears that some companies use the contests to collect marketing photos for free. Those companies instruct their lawyer to draft rules to allow those uses. Some companies just copy other contest rules without realizing what they are doing. Some lawyers draft the rules to protect the company from infringement claims when the graphics dept uses the images beyond the license.
Most of my copyright infringement cases for photographers against companies that should know better often happen when one of the company’s employees does not realize he cannot use a photo that is sitting on the company’s server for any purpose he chooses. Other companies seem to use photos without a license because it’s cheaper to pay for an infringement than to get a license in advance.
The sum effect, however, is that photographers must fight for their rights!
Bob4 Jun 2010
Hi Carolyn: No, of course not (as long as you stay in practice!):-). And as you and Ron, in a previous comment, observe, the “take no prisoners, show no mercy” tone of a lot of contracts may indeed originate from corporate authorities higher than the Legal department. I guess, in my battles with being blackballed by Conde Nast and other publishers, it’s always the folks in Legal who I have to lock horns with.
It is disappointing to know that “Other companies seem to use photos without a license because it’s cheaper to pay for an infringement than to get a license in advance. ” This is why I always recommend your excellent book and blog! cheers, Bob
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kirk tuck7 Jun 2010
Bob, Thank you for spreading the word about this. I hope your post becomes viral. And quickly. It’s time to push back!
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Maggie16 Jun 2010
Bob interesting info.
I just received (6-16-2010) in the mail a Professional Discount Rate of $7.00
for Popular Photography a savings of $52.88. Included in the envelope “About this Charter Offer”
…… the publisher has authorized us to offer selected readers………etc.
I would guess this is not coming directly from Popular Photography.
Do you have any info on an offer like this?
Bob16 Jun 2010
Sorry, Maggie, but I don’t. Bob
Michele Stapleton24 Jun 2010
Another rights grab to add to the list: http://www.herringalliance.org/photo-contest
Kirk Tuck13 Aug 2010
Thanks for publishing this. It’s pretty much crazy time in the photo business and nothing is as disappointing as the ASMP basically abandoning all of its core, historic initiatives to protect photographers in order to get co-opted by the forces pushing Orphan Works legislation forward. I was a chapter president and recommended membership in the ASMP in my book, Commercial Photography Handbook, but now I am fairly certain that most of their budget goes to squabble over internal, procedural matters.
The only way to proceed for individual photographers is to always say “No” to a bad idea. To walk away from bad contracts and, most importantly, to communicate why to the legion of photographers who would agree with you if only they read the fine print on the contest forms.
Keep up the great work and the great blog!!!!! I check yours almost daily.
Bob13 Aug 2010
Kirk: I’m a big fan of yours as well. As a former actor, I am sooooo jealous of your gig with the Zachary Scott theater….it’s the best of both worlds, and you do beautiful work on their behalf. It seems like they realize and appreciate that too! What a rare treat. cheers, Bob
David17 Sep 2010
OK, so I read this after I entered the contest.
But I did check the pro-imaging.org site and it does not list this contest os bad (or good) as recently as Sept. 16.
Does that imply that the contest is kosher?
I did read the rules and the it does grant “non-exclusive” rights (OK by me) and to “edit, publish, promote, republish”. This seems standard language for editorial content. As long as it doesn’t allow the sale of the image or transfer of these rights, this is pretty standard from my experience.
I also got a phone call to give verbal permission to publish two of the images as it seems I won one or more of the categories.
Seems on the up and up to me even though the rules language may be a bit Draconian, but it’s not any different than most TOS agreements I’ve seen.
Have you read the rights you sign away when you install most Microsoft software? Pales in comparision.