Entering a photo contest? READ THE FINE PRINT

A while back, a photographer on a discussion forum posted how happy he was that a photograph he had taken was in the running to be published in National Geographic Magazine in their YOUR SHOT feature.

On first glance, who wouldn’t want the opportunity to be able to say they had a photograph published in one of the most well known magazines in the world that features work by amazing photographers?

A closer look at the rules and terms at the contest however, should give you pause.

Read the FAQ on the contest (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/your-shot/faq):

When I submit a photo to Your Shot, do I retain the copyright to the photograph?

By submitting a photograph to Your Shot you will always retain ownership of the copyright. What you will grant National Geographic is a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license for that photograph. Please read through the Your Shot rules for more information on the rights you grant when submitting a photograph to Your Shot. ”

Followed by the terms of service (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/community/terms.html):

5. For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in material you upload, comments you post, or other content you provide to the Site (“User Content”). By uploading User Content, you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries, affiliates, joint venturers, and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional, and trade uses in connection with NG Products. National Geographic may license or sublicense, in whole or in part, to third parties rights in User Content as appropriate to distribute, market, or promote such NG Products. An NG Product is defined as “a product of National Geographic, a subsidiary, affiliate, joint venturer, or licensee of National Geographic, in any language, over which National Geographic has “Editorial Control.” For the purposes of this Agreement, “Editorial Control” means the right to review, consult regarding, formulate standards for, or to exercise a veto over the appearance, text, use, or promotion of the NG Product. You also agree that National Geographic may make User Content available to users of the Site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available.

Basically, this means that you are giving National Geographic the right to use your image as much as they want, however they want, whenever they want, make as much money as they want off the image, as well as allowing anyone else they give the rights to as well…
So you could submit an amazing photograph that gets published in the magazine, a book collection, advertisements, put on t-shirts, mugs, etc, and all you get is a tear-sheet of your image in National Geographic and bragging rights.

Contests like this are a way for National Geographic and other magazines, websites, etc, to get free content to exploit as they see fit.

To make this particular rights grab even worse, they have put together a bunch of YOUR SHOTS into a special collectors edition!


And it costs $11! So even if you had a shot published in it, you get to PAY for a copy!

And for an extra $8, you can upload your picture and have it on your specially made edition!

Check out the international photo competition and it’s the same thing… even the kids contest for crying out loud!


By entering the Contest, all entrants (and their respective parents and legal guardians) grant a royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive license to Sponsor, its designees, licensees and affiliates (“Authorized Parties”), to reproduce, distribute, display and create derivative works of the entries (along with a name credit) in connection with the Contest and promotion of the Contest, in any media now or hereafter known, including, but not limited to: Display at a potential exhibition of winners; publication of a book featuring select entries in the Contest; publication in National Geographic Kids Magazine or online highlighting entries or winners of the Contest. Entrants consent to the Sponsor doing or omitting to do any act that would otherwise infringe the entrant’s “moral rights” in their entries. Display or publication of any entry on an Authorized Party’s website does not indicate the entrant will be selected as a winner. Authorized Parties will not be required to pay any additional consideration or seek any additional approval in connection with such use.

Any time you want to enter a contest, check the rules and terms..you might be surprised what you find…in some cases, you are actually giving up the FULL COPYRIGHT on your image, meaning the contest holder could SUE you if you put the image on a website or sold it. nice huh?

Mark Loundy writes about the photo business and posts a regular column relating to rights and photography. In his column he has the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY. Some of the uglies just make me shudder!


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