Beware of Photo Contests

January 19, 2010 · 12 comments

Barbados, Boys running on beach: Frommer’s Caribbean Guide 2009

The cover of a travel guidebook is key to its success. Publishers have always put a lot of effort into picking just the right image to sell a book and its destination, and have paid well for the usage. That is, until now.

Rather than pay established rates of a thousand dollars or so from a stock agency or established pro, one leading company, Wiley Publishing, has now moved to crowdsourcing images for the cover of a Frommer’s guide. They have announced a photo contest, sponsored by Air New Zealand, and aimed squarely at amateur and semipro photographers. The winner will get $5000 and their photo on the cover of a Frommer’s guide.

What’s the catch? Five grand sounds like a handsome payment.

The catch is very simple. Read the rules!. Not only can Wiley publish the winning image. They can also publish every single image submitted to the contest by every contestant, in any of their books, forever, all without any payment whatsoever. So they aren’t paying $5K for one image, but for thousands of images.

As an added catch, not only are contestants required to relinquish publishing rights forever (albeit non-exclusively), but they must agree to indemnify Frommer’s (i.e. pay all their legal bills) if there is any question whatsover about the image later on. Not even pros do that.

Here’s the legal details:

License: Participant retains ownership of the copyright in any submitted photographs. However, by entering photograph(s) in this Contest, participant grants Sponsor the irrevocable, perpetual right to edit, adapt, use and publish in any media now known or hereafter discovered any or all of the photographs without compensation to the participant, his or her successors or assigns, or any other entity. ENTERING A SUBMISSION IN THIS CONTEST CONSTITUTES PARTICIPANT’S IRREVOCABLE ASSIGNMENT, CONVEYANCE, AND TRANSFERENCE TO SPONSOR OF THE FOREGOING RIGHTS. Photograph(s) shall be given attribution credit based on the name supplied with submission. The winner shall work with Sponsor to change the file in any way deemed necessary for publication of the photograph(s). The participants shall supply, upon request, original, unmodified digital files.


Participants… waive and release, and agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless, Sponsor,all contest and advertising agencies, and their respective parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, distributors, and all of their respective officers, directors, employees, representatives and agents, and their respective successors and assigns (the “Indemnified Parties”), from and against, any and all rights, claims and causes of action whatsoever that they may have, or which may arise, against any of them for any liability for any matter, cause or thing whatsoever…..arising in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from…. the use of the photograph….

Photographers who are tempted to participate should stop and think if this is a risk they want to undertake. Like several other rights grabs which have surfaced recently, this contest is no contest at all. At the very minimum Wiley ought to pay for whatever images they use in any of their books, and adjust the onerous indemnification terms.

Photographers who wish to complain can find Frommers Travel on Facebook and on Twitter at @frommerstravel .

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  • Add another one to the Rights Grab “Contest”

    This time it's Fodor's

  • Good to see the word getting out there on these rights grab attempts by some large companies. It isn't surprising to see photography enthusiasts take part in these so called competitions but shame on anyone who calls themselves a photographer for agreeing to these terms.

    I'm stunned to see that Canon is taking part in this kind of behavior, I use and love my Canon gear as do so many other photographers who earn their living with Canon equipment. Canon should stick to making their money by selling great equipment and if we as photographers create work that makes Canon look good then Canon should offer photographers something in exchange for using the work for their benefit. In short, quid pro quo.

    Thanks for the insightful post David.

  • Thanks for posting this. Very nice recap of some of the key points in my talk. I hope you and your readers find it useful! Thanks again.

  • Thanks for posting this. Very nice recap of some of the key points in my talk. I hope you and your readers find it useful! Thanks again.

  • Here's another rights grab photo contest, this from Islands magazine, with similar terms, although without the indemnification term.

    By entering, 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 possible editorial, promotional or advertising purposes, without further permission, notice or compensation

  • Glad you did that, Jagdish. Did Canon India have any reply to the pro photographers who complained?

  • jagdishagarwal

    Canon India had a photography contest with similar clauses. They asked us to distribute forms to all Dinodia photographers. We refused. But they had enough photographers who participated.

  • stockphotos

    Interesting new way of acquiring stock images for large publications. It's like getting a subscription at one of the stock sites without the warehousing clause. There are so many people who enter these things and never read the fine print or would check up to see if their image were actually used to really have an effect on stopping things like this. I bet you will see more and more of them unless people start calling them out like this. All you can do is keep talking about it and educating people like you are doing.

  • yes – that sounds like a bad one too. Complete copyright transfer is really insulting.

    UK based ProImaging is also following photo contests and has put together a Bill of RIghts for Photography Competition and keep track of which competitions meet their standards.

  • gregceo

    Vimeo, Canon Hold “Total Rights Grab” Canon HD Video Contest
    Absolutely David!!! Check out what Canon is doing:

    Shame on Canon, Vimeo, Vincent LaForet and all the judges for supporting a contest in which all owners of copyright of video submissions have to agree to transfer their copyright to Canon. Here is the offensive language:

    “the copyright in and to the complete work shall rest with Canon.”

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