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Shock as Nikon UK endorses 'rights-grabbing' competition

14 September 2006 - EPUK

Photography giant Nikon has astonished both professional photographers and industry commentators with its endorsement of a high-profile ‘rights grabbing’ competition.

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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Comments

OK, I’m a Canon user, but the worrying thing here is that Nikon try to justify this by saying that the competition is aimed at amateurs. In other words, Nikon are happy to allow amateurs to be ripped off and at the same time erode a professional market. The airlines that are involved with Opodo may never need to pay for another photo again, depriving professionals (both Nikon and Canon users) of their income. Well done Nikon, you just cut off your own customers. If we can’t make a living from licensing pictures, we can’t buy cameras.

Comment 1: Tim Gander, 14 September 2006, 06:16 PM

Typical Nikon . Not content with rolling out poorly performing digital cameras and effectively getting the buyers to do their R&D they’re now stealing photographers rights. Its no wonder Canon are leaping ahead.

Comment 2: fox foxton, 14 September 2006, 07:45 PM

Nikon have not only irritated 100% of their professional users in this move, they have also alienated potential customers. Congratulations on achieving the impossible, 100% market share of disappointed photographers.

Comment 3: Chris McNulty, 14 September 2006, 08:47 PM

Nikon’s involvement as sponsors in this competition is appalling. Their defence, as given in a recent statement when questioned on their action was a crass reply of ”...and we feel it is a nice way for them to get involved in photography.” relating to an expectation of amateur competitors. For a company to give this as their excuse when they are supplying – often very expensive equipment to professional photographers who are dependent on the copyright of their images as part of their living – yet are prepared to take a leading part in a competion that encourages keen amateurs in what could easily be described as a blantant grab of their copyright. I have been using Nikon equipment for over twenty five years. If they are not prepared to withdraw or amend their involvement in this compeition I will cease purchasing any more of their equipment in future and I urge that every serious photographer, whether amateur or professional, should also consider this action. Shame on Nikon.

Des E Gershon – Birmingham UK

Comment 4: Des Gershon, 15 September 2006, 02:59 AM

Yes. Absolutely typical of a Corporation completely divorced from the reality of their core customers needs. But sadly I don’t think Canon are any smarter. Watch this space!

Comment 5: Adam Woolfitt, 15 September 2006, 02:44 PM

As a pro user of Nikon gear for 20 years, I feel totally disgusted. I find it totally unbelievable that Nikon would even consider this move, but they have. Photokina is coming up shortly, unfortunately I’m not going this year, but every photographer should be making a protest on the Nikon stand.

Comment 6: Lenny Warren, 15 September 2006, 06:21 PM

Reading between the lines – Steve Davey, 16 September 2006, 04:49 PM

I have been using Nikon gear for the last 15 years, I have been struggling in the photo game like many others, so my supplier under mines all my rights I battle for on a daily basis, I am not happy about it at all, come on nikon see sense and change the terms or leave the opodo competition, if you really do understand copyright.

Comment 8: ian reynolds, 16 September 2006, 05:13 PM

Nikon simply do not care. They freely admit they knew the terms of the competition and so it follows they are happy to support them.

Nikon attacks professional photographers rights – what other conclusion can reasonably be drawn ?

Comment 9: Dubhacan, 17 September 2006, 02:01 AM

As a Nikon user for the last 20 years, I’m seriously concerned about how Nikon managed to expose themselves to such a huge public relations disaster. This is of course much to the glee of its competitors and detractors.

I believe Nikon did not intend to promote rights grabbing or to undermine the hard work of professionals. I believe it was just some management oversight which management is now having trouble admitting.

Nikon, please show us that what we believe is true, and do something about it! Doesn’t take a lot to make the necessary changes to the rules or to withdraw support for the competition or something. Just do something and win back our faith!

Comment 10: Mike O, 17 September 2006, 11:19 AM

Opodo has all to gain while Nikon has much to lose.

My take: Nikon is unwittingly being used by Opodo to provide prestige and credibility to its “competition”, which is of course just a ruse to grab thousands of free photos for their own unlimited use. The sooner Nikon realises this and does something about it, the better.

Comment 11: James Taylor, 17 September 2006, 01:15 PM

If there was ever a reason not to buy Nikon anymore, there it is.

And doubly so because their immediate response is to rationalize and minimize, rather than immediately withdrawing their sponsorship and saying, “Sorry, we goofed. What the hell were we thinking? Of course we respect photographer’s rights and so want no part of this sleezy practice.”

Comment 12: CJ Morgan, 18 September 2006, 05:36 PM

Canon is the same, look at the myprint T&C:

http://www.yourprint.canon-europe.com/index.html?ctx=39&locale=en_GB

“By sending Canon any information or material, you grant to Canon an unrestricted, irrevocable license to use, reproduce, display, perform, modify, transmit and distribute that material or information, and you also agree that Canon is free to use any ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques that you send us for any purpose.”

now ist that better?

Comment 13: goorooj, 19 September 2006, 11:43 AM

“Reading between the lines – ENTER THE WANDERLUST PRO COMPETITION! Top prize £5k, no rights grab! No brainer really!”

Except if you have moral issues, Nikon are associated with that one too.

Comment 14: John Mattocks, 1 October 2006, 09:00 AM

In fairness that is a bit of a mindless comment. I am one of the judges of the Wanderlust competition (hell I even was brought in to help them draft the rules so they didn’t offend pro photographers). Nikon are just one of the sponsors the competition. They don’t micro manage and ask to see the rules (maybe they should). I imagine that their involvemet in the Opodo comp was the same. Sure, Nikon screwed up by letting Opodo do smething dumb, but its corporate stupidity not something sinister on Nikon’s part. The marketing spod who made the deal with Opodo probably doesn’t even understand ©! To suggest people should boycott a well-run competition because of an issue with another competition is pretty stupid. Should I burn all my Nikon gear as well in protest?

Comment 15: Steve Davey, 2 October 2006, 06:16 AM

I have been using Nikon equipment since the 1960s.
I have seen how companys have obtained Images from amatures to get photographs on the cheap and it is Nikons responsability to support the pro market

Comment 16: Dave Davies, 6 March 2007, 11:12 AM

As a Nikon user for the last 20 years, I’m seriously concerned about how Nikon managed to expose themselves to such a huge public relations disaster. This is of course much to the glee of its competitors and detractors.

I believe Nikon did not intend to promote rights grabbing or to undermine the hard work of professionals. I believe it was just some management oversight which management is now having trouble admitting.

Nikon, please show us that what we believe is true, and do something about it! Doesn’t take a lot to make the necessary changes to the rules or to withdraw support for the competition or something. Just do something and win back our faith!.

Comment 17: منتديات, 19 August 2007, 12:11 PM

Nikon’s involvement as sponsors in this competition is appalling. Their defence, as given in a recent statement when questioned on their action was a crass reply of ”…and we feel it is a nice way for them to get involved in photography.” relating to an expectation of amateur competitors. For a company to give this as their excuse when they are supplying – often very expensive equipment to professional photographers who are dependent on the copyright of their images as part of their living – yet are prepared to take a leading part in a competion that encourages keen amateurs in what could easily be described as a blantant grab of their copyright. I have been using Nikon equipment for over twenty five years. If they are not prepared to withdraw or amend their involvement in this compeition I will cease purchasing any more of their equipment in future and I urge that every serious photographer, whether amateur or professional, should also consider this action. Shame on Nikon.

Comment 18: منتديات, 19 August 2007, 12:14 PM

I have been selling nikon for over 5yrs. Never as the best but as a relible company who always look after their customers by suppling good relible quality kit. I myself am a canon user. the next time a customer asks me what i think of nikon i will tell them what i have read here today with disgust. to those pro`s out there you have my sympathy. sam

Comment 19: sam, 23 July 2008, 02:09 PM

The Wanderlust TPOTY rules were changed after I complained to the then picture editor in (I think) 2004 after one of my images was used the following year to promote the “Destinations” travel show.
It was not a winning image, having only reached the final 10. I had no objection to it being published and credited in the “coffee table” book of images – but I was never asked for permission to use it on the “Destinations” show website.
The argument used to justify it was that the “rules” allowed for use in promoting the show. I would have (again) had no problem with it being used to promote the show at which it was displayed, however it was actually used to promote the next year’s show. The picture editor took that point up with the organisers and they just said “the show is the show – which year doesn’t matter”. She was as unhappy as me but we decided the rule was so imprecise it would have been difficult to win a copyright claim. But she did organise the rule change to make sure it couldn’t happen again.

Comment 20: Steve E, 22 March 2015, 12:14 AM

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