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Guardian backs down on competition 'rights-grab' after NUJ intervene

8 October 2006 - EPUK

After pressure from the NUJ, and following discussions with co-sponsor Canon, The Guardian has finally agreed to drop a ‘rights-grabbing’ clause from the terms of a weekly photography competition in its Weekend Magazine.

Under the new terms – which represent the fourth revision of the terms in seven days – The Guardian can now only use entries to promote the competition. Under the previous rules, Guardian Newspapers Ltd could have used or resold any photographs entered for any purpose in perpetuity.

The dramatic turnaround follows discussions between competition sponsor Canon and the National Union of Journalists’ Photographers Sub-Committee, and brings to an end a week of controversy for the newspaper group.

In a joint statement, Canon and The Guardian said: “Following discussions, the terms and conditions for this competition have been further revised so that The Guardian is granted rights to publish and use entries in so far as it is relevant to this specific competition. The full terms and conditions can be seen on the Guardian website.

The brief press release ends with: “Canon and The Guardian will always support fair terms and conditions for photographers”.

Pete Jenkins, vice chair of the NUJ’s Photographers’ Sub-Committee told EPUK “It’s been a long week, but I am very pleased that The Guardian has finally done the decent thing. I can’t praise Canon’s PR agency Nelson Bostock highly enough: they took the concerns that we raised on board, and dealt with the matter very efficiently: I only wish it were always as simple as this.”

“Hopefully, publications hosting photography competitions in the future will pay proper attention to the terms and conditions of entry, and ensure that we don’t have to do this again.”

End of a controversial week

The announcement looks set to draw to a close a week in which both The Guardian and co-sponsor Canon came under heavy criticism for a competition which many photographers felt was a front for putting together a valuable free-for-use picture library, an allegation which The Guardian strongly denies.

While the statement came jointly from both competition sponsor Canon and The Guardian, EPUK understands that the rule change was brought about at the insistence of the camera giant, after The Guardian did not return calls from the journalism union.

In particular, some photographers felt misled by The Guardian’s statement on Monday that the rules were to be changed. While the email gave the impression that their concerns had been addressed, many were angry when it was found that the central issue – The Guardian’s insistence to reuse and resell any images entered without paying the original photographers – still remained in the ‘revised’ terms.

One amateur photographer who had raised the issue with the Guardian told EPUK: “I could just about believe that it was a genuine mistake – until they went and did it exactly all over again two days later. You have to start wondering why, if it was just an oversight, that they went and did it all over again.”

Timeline: A week is a long time in competitions…

Saturday, 9am: The Guardian launch a revamped Weekend magazine, which includes a weekly “In Pictures” competition which will feature reader’s pictures. However, the small print at the foot of the page includes an outright copyright grab on all entries:

The rights grab immediately causes controversy and dominates both professional and amateur photographic forums where The Guardian are condemned as “cynical”, “arrogant” and “abusing basic photographers’ rights for their own gain”

Sunday, 7pm: Guardian Head of Pictures, Roger Tooth, distances himself from the controversy, telling EPUK that the competition is not his responsibility but that of Weekend picture editor Kate Edwards and GNL Rights Manager Robert Hahn.

Monday, 10am: EPUK contacts The Guardian for a quote and explains the implications of the competition terms.

Monday, 1pm: The Guardian contacts EPUK to announce the rules will be changed, and emails those who had complained it directly, stating: “You’ll be pleased to know that the terms and conditions are being revised and a new updated version will appear on our website by the weekend.”

Monday, 1.40pm: EPUK contacts The Guardian for details of the new terms. No reply is received.

Monday, 5pm: In an apparent mistake, the website terms change to an incomprehensible legal mish-mash of both an outright copyright grab and a non-copyright rights-grab:

Wednesday 10.50am: The website terms change again, this time dropping the assignment of copyright, but still granting the Guardian the same rights to use, exploit and sell any entries as before:

Wednesday 11.30am: The Guardian confirm to EPUK that the new terms are as published on the website. After being told that the new terms offer little improvement on the originals, The Guardian ask for time to confirm with Rights Manager Robert Hahn whether a genuine mistake has been made.

Wednesday 5pm: The Guardian confirm that the terms on the website are correct, and that no further changes will be made. In a short statement, they tell EPUK:“The competition terms and conditions have been amended to ensure that photographers can continue to exploit and derive income from their pictures should they choose to enter.”

Thursday, 10am: A representative from the National Union of Journalists Photographers Sub-Committee tries to raise objections with The Guardian.

Thursday, 11am: When the Guardian doesn’t return calls, the NUJ contact sponsor Canon, who two weeks previously had told EPUK that they would never sponsor a competition with rights-grabbing terms.

Thursday, 11.30am: Canon contact The Guardian to discuss the competition.

Thursday 5pm: Insiders to the discussions tell EPUK that they are confident that the rights grab will be dropped “shortly”.

Friday 5pm: The NUJ are privately informed of the new proposed terms, and asked to comment on them.

Saturday 7am: The terms on The Guardian website are amended to drop the rights grab.

A joint statement is released from both The Guardian and Canon stating the rules have been changed, and reaffirming both parties’ commitment to fair terms and conditions for photographers.

Want to contact the EPUK Website editor? editor@epuk.org

Comments

terms ands conditions should be simpler to understand. Very few pople actually ever reads them. This should be challenged in court sometime. What use is to have terms and conditions that take 1 hour to read and a lawyer to understand???

Comment 1: Celso, 9 November 2006, 11:26 AM

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