Nikon’s sponsorship of the ‘rights grabbing’ Opodo Reflections Competition has surprised and angered many leading professional photographers as well as others within the photographic community.
The controversy looks certain to tarnish Nikon’s reputation within the industry with long term professional Nikon users condemning the photographic giant’s involvement and rival manufacturers stating that they would not have got involved with a competition which contained such terms.
One photographer told EPUK: “Either Nikon didn’t read the small print of the competition they were sponsoring, or they just don’t care. And I don’t know which is more worrying.”
The terms and conditions for Opodo’s Reflections competition demands that all entrants grant them a licence to use the photographs forever for no fee. The terms also ask that photographers give up their moral rights in the photographs, and that they assign their rights in any other ‘derivative’ works, such as montages.
[Editor’s note: The terms and conditions were changed at Nikon UK’s insistence six days after this story ran. You can see the old terms and conditions here and the new, revised conditions here. Our followup story is here]
Rather helpfully, Opodo reassures entrants that they “can submit as many photos as they like”, with each photograph entered being available for Opodo to use forever.
The terms of the competition provide Opodo with an instant royalty-free photographic library, allowing it to use every photograph submitted to the competition forever without paying the entrant. The term ‘transferable’ would also allow it to sell its licenses to other companies. The value to Opodo of having such an asset could be estimated in the millions of pounds, making the eleven-month competition immensely profitable.
What Nikon-using professionals are saying…
“Why with the erosion of photographers rights being a daily battle does Nikon choose this moment to associate itself with terms that undermine the very rights of their customers ?”
* Graham Harrison, Nikon user for 25 years
“This is the predictable behaviour of a clueless corporation run by macho accountants and marketing types who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, biting the hand that feeds it. Sadly, the bulk of Nikon’s prolix customer base won’t know any better and will happily sign away everything for their nanosecond of fame. The really shrewd lawyers and marketers know that, which is why this particular problem is a hardy perennial. From their cost/benefit point of view, professionals count for little.”
* Paul Ellis, long-term Nikon user
In contrast, most competition terms state clearly that only the winning photographs will be used, and then only in connection with the promotion of the competition. To use just one example of best practice, the terms for the Wanderlust Travel Photographer of the Year (which is also sponsored by Nikon) states:
All copyright and title to all entered photographs remains with the photographer in its entirety. However, the photographer grants the organisers and the competition sponsors non-exclusive rights to free reproduction and exhibition of prize-winning and commended entries, but only in connection with the direct promotion of and publicity for this competition. Where possible, appropriate credits will be given. Photos cannot be sold by any party without the express permission of the photographer.
Damaging to Nikon’s reputation
While ‘rights-grabbing’ competitions such as these are not uncommon, it is rare to find one supported by a major industry figure such as Nikon.
Nikon’s own Charter of Corporate Behaviour states that it promotes “the exercise of fair and ethical business practices and…the use of good judgment, in order to gain trust from customers…”.
While it is not illegal to ask entrants to a competition for such a wide-ranging licence, it would be difficult for Nikon to argue that it represented “fair and ethical business practice”
Other industry bodies moved quickly to disassociate themselves from such rights-grabs.
What Nikon-using professionals are saying…
” I’m extremely disappointed that Nikon, a company which takes such pride in its relationship with professional photographers should have done this. This is an iniquitous competition and Nikon should be ashamed of themselves for being associated with it.”
* Erik Russell, Nikon user for 30 years
I’m disappointed that Nikon would do this – it does feel like an amateur competition, rather than aimed at professionals, so it may be that different parts of the organisation aren’t talking to each other.”
* Richard Hanson, Nikon user for 14 years
“As a long time Nikon user, who has remained loyal and sung Nikon’s praises despite stiff competition from other camera manufacturers. I have to say my heart sunk to my stomach when I read the details of the rights grab. It’s now official, Nikon stink in the world of professional photographers. Rights grabbing is everything a photographer should avoid and I will now have to seriously consider whether to continue to stay with Nikon”
* Long term Nikon user Gary Austin
Canon told EPUK: “Canon treats photographers and their copyright with the greatest of respect, and would never ask them to agree to such terms as part of a competition”.
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 have always respected the copyright of photographers, and we would be very, very uncomfortable with such terms. We wouldn’t really want to be involved with any such competition.”
Nikon’s involvement ‘gives credibility’ to rights grabs
While Nikon are providing a number of prizes, including a monthly prize of £200 digital compact, and an overal prize of a digital SLR, the real benefit to Opodo is that it brings a huge industry credibility to aspiring photographers. Sponsorship by such a major player in the industry attracts entrants, secures publicity in major photographic publications, and gives a seal of credibility to the competition and its terms.
Travel website Opodo is owned by nine European airlines – Aer Lingus, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa – and by travel technology company Amadeus, and its first regional website was set up in 2001. It had turnover of €1bn in the financial year for 2005, and boasts 18million visitors each month.
Shortly before going to press, Nikon admitted to EPUK that they had been aware of the terms of the competition since their sponsorship began. A spokesperson told EPUK: “We should stress that the competition is a positive thing. it is aimed solely at amateurs, and we feel it is a nice way for them to get involved in photography. We would like to stress that the terms and conditions you quote are not ours: they were drawn up by Opodo. However, we are happy to discuss these terms with Opodo and will do so in the future.”
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