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Pro Imaging launches campaign against 'rights-grab' photo competitions

14 March 2008 - EPUK

Pro-Imaging, the photographers’ organisation and discussion list has launched a campaign to name and shame photographic competitions which fail to meet fair standards.

These criteria, which Pro Imaging has named the Bill of Rights, include that entrants should retain copyright on their entries, that competition organisers are only allowed use of images in connection with the competition, that photographers should be credited, and that the rules should be clear to understand.

In a statement, the group said: “Pro Imaging believes The Bill of Rights represents best practice to the photographic competition industry and our intent is that it should be adopted as a standard code of practice.”

Extracts from Pro Imaging’s “Bill of Rights”

1. [Competition] entrants will retain copyright and moral rights in their images…..Images used and published will always be credited to the photographer

2. The sponsor/organiser will only acquire limited usage rights for submitted images to any one competition….restricted solely to promoting the specfic competition.

3. The rules of the competition must be explicit and say either – that images submitted to the competition will not be used in commercial products nor licensed commercially, OR
that images will be used in commercial products or licensed commercially and that each such usage will be subject to a specific rights managed license with the photographer concerned.

4. There must be a clear statement of the manner in which the submitted entries will be used by the organiser and sponsors.

5. The competition must have a specified date on which prizes will be awarded, and that date must not be more than 16 months beyond the date upon which the competition details are first made public.

Full text here

The move comes among increasing concern that amateur photographers are being unwittingly exploited by unscrupulous competitions which set up photography competitions as a way of putting together a cheap image library which can be used commercially.

Pro Imaging will place competitions onto either its Rights On or Rights Off lists according to whether the competition’s rules are consistent with the principles of their “Bill of Rights”

Blacklisted competitions

Pro Imaging say that when they first become aware of competitions which fail to meet their criteria, they will first contact organisers and sponsors, giving them around seven days to respond before listing the competition on the “Rights Off” list.

Current blacklisted competitions include those organised or sponsored by photographic industry firms Nikon, National Geographic, PDN Online, iStockphoto, plus the British Council

Also listed is the “Million Places On Earth”: competition, which initially aimed to pay out two top prizes of $1m once a target of one million entries had been reached. Last year an EPUK report estimated that it would take around 20,000 years for that target to be met. The competition has currently received just over 500 entries.

In the past, the threat of adverse publicity has often proved effective at persuading organisers to change unfair competition terms, with both Nikon and Canon having forced changes in rights-grabbing competitions they had been sponsoring.

However, other photography competition organisers – including the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, and Shell have refused to either change the rules, or to discuss the terms with journalists.

Pro Imaging says that the campaign, which is supported by other photographers organisations including EPUK, is a long-term attempt to persuade competition promoters and sponsors to adopt practices which respect all the rights of all image creators.

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Absolutely Brilliant.

We should all support and promote this initiative.

Pete Jenkins

Comment 1: Pete Jenkins, 17 March 2008, 08:15 am

Excellent initiative. I hope to read future stories of its great success.

It’s one thing educating and shaming competition organisers. Unfortunately, there is an exasperating mentality amongst some amateur photographers which leads them to believe it is absolutely fine to allow free, unlimited use of their images by any organisation on the grounds that: “I don’t mind at all. I don’t want to make money out of my photography – I just enjoy it as a hobby.”

I’ve seen the argument arise on numerous photography websites, where someone proudly boasts that a well known publication has requested permission to use one of his/her photos. It emerges that there is no fee. Pages of comments follow, ranging from gentle, persuasive explanation to torrid rants, roaring that giving away good photographs is damaging all those who are trying to make a living out of their images. Yet none of this has any impact on the original rights gifter.

Unless anyone has any innovative ideas, I doubt there will ever be a solution to that problem. I can understand if an individual is willing to be exploited in this way. What I can’t understand is their refusal to accept that they could take a responsible approach to the effect it has on everyone else.

Comment 2: Avril Jones, 30 April 2008, 12:25 pm

I agree – this action is highly needed and long overdue. It will help against the steady slide we have seen recently towards business making profits at the expense of the photographer.

I agree also that alot of amateurs don’t appear to have any concept that they are endangering the livelyhoods of those who do this for a job, by allowing pictures to be used for free. It’s like they get some sort of cheap thrill out of it.

Comment 3: Peter Drought, 26 April 2009, 10:35 pm

Perhaps this comp ought to included?


Rule No 18. Entrants will retain copyright of the photographs and text that they submit to the competition. By entering the competition all entrants grant Blipfoto Ltd and its licensees the worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual right to store, use, copy, display, publish, transmit, edit, modify, reformat and exhibit all or any part of their photographs and text within Blipfoto, Channel Four Television, National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Screen websites, publications and all other forms of media (electronic or otherwise). No fees will be payable for any of the above uses.

Comment 4: TeaInBed, 5 January 2010, 11:20 am

I found a competition here in Norfolk that was along similar lines for one of the local PR agencies, when I pointed out that they were on a rights grab and there was no need for the T&C’s to be like that I just got abuse.

Comment 5: Chris Ridley, 10 March 2010, 04:02 pm

your_ip_is_blacklisted_by sbl.spamhaus.org

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