The move comes just over a year since a spokesperson for the Guardian reassured readers that The Guardian would “always support fair terms and conditions for photographers” after being forced into a u-turn by the competition sponsor.
The Sony/Guardian Unseen Britain competition invites entries, the best of which will be used in a Sony Unseen Britain advertisement feature in the Guardian Weekend magazine on February 17 2008 as well as being featured in an exhibition and online. One top winning entry will win a prize of a Sony α700 Digital SLR worth “around £1,300”, with the remainer of the ‘winning’ featured entries used not receiving anything at all.
As part of the terms, all entrants must agree to granting a wide-ranging licence for Sony and The Guardian to use all submitted photographs, But while Sony’s licence applies just “for the purposes of any promotional activity conducted by Sony in relation to this Competition”, The Guardian’s licence is “a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide licence to republish any image(s) you submit to GNM in any format, including without limitation print and electronic format (for example in The Guardian Weekend supplement, on www.guardian.co.uk , and in book or other compilation format)”, allowing it to use any photographs well beyond the scope of the original competition.
One entrant who noticed the terms only after entering the competition told EPUK: “I’m screwed because I didn’t read the small print. Disgusting.”
Referring to rights-grabbing competitions in general, Mark Stephens, a leading media lawyer for Finers Stephens Innocent, has previously told EPUK: “The practice of using photo competitions which require photographers to give up their copyright seem to be to be a thinly veiled attempt at conning them out of their creative rights just so a large corporate can fatten up their picture stock.”
Rights-grabbing competitions “extremely bad practice”
Sony’s sponsorship of the competition contrasts with that stance taken by most camera manufacturers who refuse to sponsor competitions which treat the entrants unfairly.
Last September Canon told EPUK: “Canon treats photographers and their copyright with the greatest of respect, and would never ask them to agree to [rights-grabbing terms] as part of a competition”. When Canon were indeed found to be sponsoring such a competition a month later, they were instrumental in forcing the Guardian to change the terms.
Pentax said “If we were asked to sponsor a competition where such terms were included, we would talk to the organiser and make it clear that we felt that this was extremely bad practice”
A spokesperson for Olympus told EPUK: “When we run competitions, we only ever ask for permission to use the winning photographs to promote the competition itself…we would be very, very uncomfortable with such terms. We wouldn’t really want to be involved with any such competition.
Previous Guardian rights-grab
Last year the Guardian was forced into a climbdown by the National Union of Journalists and co-sponsor Canon over it’s weekly “In Pictures” competition after the Guardian attempted to claim copyright over all submitted photographs.
The Guardian then refused to discuss the matter any further with EPUK or make any further changes to the terms, and it was only because of the intervention of the NUJ and competition sponsor Canon that the rules were finally changed.
Guardian Weekend picture editor and competition judge Kate Edwards did not reply to an email asking for clarification of the competition terms.
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