Insidious Rights Grab

I’ve not yet shared with you that for the past month I have been in charge of putting on a photo contest. The contest is part of a larger event being put on by the Anne Springs Close Greeneway which happens to be the organization my camera club is tied to. The Greenway is putting on an Earth Day celebration and they’ve invited us to be an exhibitor, they asked that we do something to engage the general public as part of our participation and thus the contest idea was born.

There are some rules. I won’t list them all but will detail a few as they are relevant for purposes of this post:

  • Amateurs only, NO PROS (meaning you’ve never profited in anyway off of an image you’ve taken)
  • Photos must be taken at and identifiable to The Greenway
  • Entrants agree to grant Anne Springs Close Greenway and the Photo Club absolute and irrevocable rights and permission to use, re-use, publish, print, display and share on any and all media for promotional, educational, illustration, art, advertising or informational purposes.
  • Here is a LINK to the entire list if you are curious

For what it is worth, I wrote these rules. I did some research, took a look at what other contest hosts have done and came up with what I thought to be reasonable guidelines to follow.

An important side note: The Greenway is a non-profit organization. Their mission statements reads:

“Connect people to nature through recreational and educational activities while fostering a passion for environmental conservation, animal habitat, and protection of natural resources”

I wholly support The Greenway, through membership, donations, usage and participation in programs. I believe they are a good group trying to do good things.

The contest has been promoted through The Greenway’s membership distribution list, newsletters and social media pages. I was surprised when I noticed a pretty irate professional photographer hadwrote a novel commented that this a was a “pretty insidious rights grab”. He went on to say how wrong it was that The Greenway was getting “tens of thousands” of dollars worth of free material and he called for ALL photographers to unite against this type exploitation.

I chose not to write a response on the Facebook page, but I am going to put my thoughts here:

I’ll start by saying that in his defense, I am sure as a professional photographer, it gets harder and harder and more and more frustrating to make a living at this art. Technology is leveling the playing field, cameras are getting better and easier to use, more pictures are taken on a daily basis today than ever before in history and EVERYONE that carries a smartphone is also walking around with a camera. Social media and the internet have made piracy as easy as a mouse click away. I suspect it is hard to get people to pay for images when “cousin Joe” shows up with his DSLR and although not professional grade, the shots are “good enough” and free.

On the flip side, my alternative perspective is, if you don’t like the rules, don’t send in an image. Simple as that! Participation is 100% by choice. If you don’t like what we are doing or how we are doing it, move along. The rules are clear and highly publicized. This particular individual isn’t eligible anyway because he is professional, so why all the energy wasted.

Furthermore, to believe these images are worth “tens of thousands”, is a bit of a stretch. Most of the entries (there are less than 30) are fun snapshots people have grabbed while enjoying the out of doors, many taken on an iphone. I’m not sure what kind of photography this person is doing but he is making serious bank. And more power to him. But in our case, when trying to tie a dollar amount to a photograph, they are only worth the amount someone is willing to pay for them. If you do the math, and assume it is only $10,000 worth of material The Greenway is getting, that is roughly $335 per image, that is a pretty high price for any image, let alone for someone who has never made a profit on their material. It is just NOT the right dollar amount to tie to this.

Also, participating in this contest is a way to give back to this non-profit organization. No one questions monetary donations. We give our money to an organization and they choose to use it as they see best. Once you give that money away, it is no longer yours to spend. It’s not really that different, and in this case, the photographer retains copyright, they are merely saying The Greenway can use the image as they see fit.

Finally, I would like to say that as an amateur photographer I love a contest like this. It gives us a chance to have our work seen and appreciated. People are proud of the images they take and they want to share them, this gives those of us who typically only get to show our friends and family members our art, an opportunity to showcase our work. It is a chance to be seen by the public that we would never have otherwise. Many times during the course of the contest, I’ve wished I was not a part of running it, so that I too, could submit an image and have a shot at someone appreciating my vision.

Note: All images in this post were taken at The Greenway.

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