Egregious rights-grabbing photo contests

There are some days I feel like I live in some parallel universe. I use neither of the two major camera brands. I watch almost no television. I take public transportation rather than owning my own car. I could go on listing the ways that I am slowly ebbing out of the mainstream. A new and insidious trend has developed among photo competitions which looks like it will push me further and further into that other, parallel universe.

I have blogged in the past about photo competitions and how to evaluate whether to spend the money on entry fees. The competitions I prefer have minimal or no entry fee. Having said that, I do understand the need for such fees. I recently judged a photo competition and was paid for it so some money has to change hands to run such contests.

That contest was an example of what I would consider a “good” contest. The sponsor, the Wedding Photojournalist Association, was pretty clear about the mission of their organization. The contest clearly benefited the individual winners but it also helped the general membership since they could clearly learn from the work of the winners.

What I consider a “bad” contest are some of the newest competitions which have become giant rights grabs where the sponsors may or may not charge but they make sure they get all the rights they need to the images that are being submitted. A couple particularly egregious examples came into my e-mail box recently.

The Hamdan Bin Mohamed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum International Photography Award, also known as HIPA describes itself as:

“…launched in 2011 by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. The award is a major contributor to Dubai’s drive of artistic and cultural excellence and aspirations to transform it into a regional hub for photography. With a grand prize of US$ 120,000 an overall prize pool of US$389,000, this season’s award is set to boast the largest prize money of any photography competition anywhere in the world.”

Those figures caught my eye! Then I started reading the rules, which is something EVERY photographer should do before they submit work to any competition, or for any other purpose. The most egregious parts:

“….grant HIPA a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty- free license to use the Photographs throughout the world, for any of its commercial or non- commercial purposes in all and any media, including, without limitation, in HIPA’s printed publications, presentations, promotional materials, in the advertising or promotion of HIPA or on HIPA’s website.

Then they have the audacity to ask for your passport number and country of issue.

The Project Imaginat10n Photo Contest sponsored by Canon has some equally egregious terms.

“…the Photograph must not depict or refer to any brand or trademark other than Canon.”

“ ….entrant irrevocably grants to Sponsor, Go Freestyle, LLC, Superfine Picture Company and each of their contractors, agents, designees (and those each of them may designate from time to time) the right to use and authorize the use of the Photograph submitted by the entrant in or in connection with … the advertising, marketing and promotion of the Film, including without limitation modifying, altering, excerpting or amending the Photograph and/or creating derivative works based on the Photograph or any component thereof.

“… in all media and formats whether now known or later developed, throughout the world in perpetuity, without any notice, permission or compensation (except where prohibited by law.)

“….entrants assume all liability for and risk of any injury or damage caused, or claimed to be caused, by participation in this Contest.”

Bob Krist blogged a while back about another egregious contest run by, of all groups, a photography magazine. The 2010 “Travelographer of the Year” photo competition from Popular Photography had a similar appalling rights grab.

“….you grant to Sponsor a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to edit, publish, promote, republish at any time in the future and otherwise use your submission, along with your name and likeness, in any and all media for any purpose, without further permission, notice or compensation (except where prohibited by law). By participating in the Contest, you agree to release Sponsor and its parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, employees, directors, officers, and agents from any and all liability, claims or actions of any kind whatsoever for injuries, damages or losses to persons and property which may be sustained in connection with the receipt, ownership, possession, use, or misuse of any prize. “

I can go on but you get the point (and you are falling asleep reading this. These competitions caught my attention and I was looking forward to entering till I read the rules. You can read on the same subject (and Bob Krist’s full piece) at:

These writers are discussing the business decisions that photographers make when deciding to enter a given contests. I completely agree with them, by the way.

I have nothing against competitions sponsored by big corporations. I recently entered the Hasselblad Masters Competition. My concern is that these same kind of contests which are big, well promoted and splashy will be viewed by many as “defining” what is the best in contemporary photography. In fact, they are increasingly a kind of parallel universe where you will not see the best work of people like me, Bob Krist, etc, etc., etc.

So when you read that this photography contest or that competition features the best of today’s photography, be careful. It features the best photography of those who entered, which is true in any competition. In these newer rights-grabbing contests, the ground rules for the competition are so bad that the best practitioners would not even consider entering these contests, so put a big asterisk by them when considering what really is “the best.”

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