I’m not big on entering photo contests (forgive me for not seeing photography as a competitive sport…) but I’ll admit that the prizes can be really tantalizing. There’s the possibility winning expensive gear for free and even a chance to get yourself out there professionally. A real make or break opportunity. Then there’s all that fine print stuff. You start reading and suddenly skimming turns to “OK I get it, now let me enter this damn contest.” It’ll come naturally to most seasoned photographers, but you might not want to skip over important issues such as: “What will they do with my photographs once I enter?” This is especially important to question because your chance to win some swag could help someone make money off your work.
Imagine one day you’re walking around in the city, it’s another disgustingly hot day and as you wipe the sweat from your hard-working brow you notice some familiar image on a billboard…”Wait a minute” you gasp, “That’s my image!” You look around in disbelief, hoping for someone else to share your sense of betrayal. Instead pedestrians stride past while you beat your fist to the ground. How could they steal your image? How could they use it to help them make more money than you probably make in a year? Perhaps it was that time you signed your life away when you entered that contest for a new 24-70 that you didn’t win. Didn’t seem like such a big deal then…
I don’t think this exact scenario happens very often…but a recent photo contest from Vogue brings this idea of voluntary theft into question. The Condé Nast publication is holding a contest called New Exposure Photography Competition, Presented by Bottega Veneta, which is mainly targeting new blood; those who are far too innocent, willing and vulnerable to see the bigger picture. Sure they promise young photographers the world, but here’s the stipulations that the American Society of Media Photographers is raising a mighty eyebrow at:
- The sponsors have the perpetual, unlimited use of all contest entries.
- There is neither compensation for contest participants nor is there credit given for their work.
- Participants are required to sign a liability release and copyright assignment, and to indemnify Botega Veneta and Condé Nast against any lawsuits that may arise as a result of the usage of the photographs.
- Every entrant is required to waive any right to sue in the event of misuse of the photographs entered.
- The winner is being offered $10,000 for a shoot that would normally command several times that amount. The winner will be required to grant copyright ownership of all photographs from the shoot.
There are already too many contests where you have to pay a ridiculous entry fee and even more obnoxious “VOTE FOR ME PLZ” types of contests than I can’t seem to escape on my facebook feed…but here’s a contest where a multi-million dollar company is covering their entitled selves should they decide your fashion portfolio is perfect for their next ad campaign. Your submission now belongs to them for all extensive purposes and you can’t even sue them after the fact.The best is the last bullet point…your prize is basically working for them at a bargain. Congrats! Welcome to the big leagues…where companies figure they can just downsize cost by bribing a student who would kill for the chance to hold a reflector for 7 hours straight without even getting compensated for food.
O.K. to be less extreme, just because they do now have the rights to your work doesn’t mean that they will go ahead and use it. In fact they added a little usage clarification at the end of their terms and conditions stating “entries and submitted works will only be used in connection with the 2013 New Exposure Photography Competition and not for other purposes by Conde Nast or Bottega Veneta.” They also say that this is common practice for photo contests and although it doesn’t really shock anyone it should raise a question: Why do they need you to sign your rights away in the first place? Either way, it goes to show you should always read a little legal jargon before you click your life away!