Things You Need To Know About Rights-Grab Photo Contests Dennis Rito
It seem that contest photo organizers/ sponsors had found a 'cheap and economical way' to 'harvest' a great deal of creative work, usually images for absolutley nothing - a library of FREE images. These are rampant nowadays not just in the Philippines (from private companies to government agencies) but even abroad. A clever ploy targetting photographers especially the amateurs who are naive and do not understand their rights and the potential value of their work. This, in a way, can 'harm' photography in general because when sponsors/ contest organizers get a collection of free images, they are less likely to buy nor hire/commission a photographer to shoot photos for commercial application - somewhere, a photographer loses a sale.
Yet, no matter how clever their mechanics/ contest rules may be, there will always be loopholes and gray areas which you can detect if you examine the contest mechanics very closely. When joining a (photo) contest, please take sometime to read carefully and understand the specific clauses particularly on the following:
Copyright Ownership/ Policy
As authors of original works, photographer entrants should own copyright of their entries, irregardless of winning and non-winning entries. Think twice if you see any of the following clause explicitly expressed in the rules:"All photos submitted as entries to the photo contest shall be owned by ...."; "..... shall retain the copyright of the photographs."; "All entries shall automatically become exclusive property of .... and may be used, copied, reproduced and/or reprinted by.... into any size or medium for exhibition, advertising, promotion or whatever purpose." (see: ownership of copyright & derivative works)
Photographer's entries are submitted independently of the digital files or film negatives except in the case of winners, where the sponsors/ organizers may request high resolution file/ digital scans of the winning photographs for verification purposes. Contest organizers has the prerogative in disposing non-winning prints. These maybe returned (via mail by enclosing self-stamped envelope) or destroyed if unclaimed. It is also understood that mere possession of unreturned/ unclaimed entries, both print/ digital files (low resolution) does not transfer authors copyright to the organizer/s (see: transfer or assignment of copyright). Please be warned should you read the clause "Original negatives and data files should be submitted together with the entry" or "All photos submitted as entries to the photo contest shall be owned by ...."
Organizers has the right to use the winning photographs for marketing and promotional purposes directly related to the photo competition. It is also the duty of the organizers to give appropriate citation/credit to photographers of winning entries. Please be watchful though for a clause such as this: ".... you hereby grant ...., its subsidiaries and branch offices the perpetual right to exclusively, royalty-free and without limitation freely use, modify, edit, copy, reproduce, distribute, translate, create derivate works from, alter and publicly display or publish such content, for whatever purposes, in any form or medium, either on this web-site or elsewhere, whether promotional or in other activities or events arranged by .... or any of the above stated parties, whether locally or world-wide."
Being the author of creative work, you have the right to require that the authorship be attributed to you, the right to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification, or derogatory action which would be prejudicial to your name and reputation (see moral rights).
What photographers lose in joining these contests?
Photographers loose all their rights, including economic and moral rights and also future income generated from licensing, etc. (see details on copyright/ economic rights and moral rights).
In conclusion, make sure that all rules and guidelines are clear, fair and justified. Should you encounter unclear and misleading guidelines similar to the clauses stated above, better think twice - it's not worth your time and effort. You may as well join IPR-Photo should you be interested in issues such as these.