When entering photo competitions (or when uploading images to websites), you should always find and read the fine print to see what rights you have just granted. In general, responsible photo contests should only have rights to use your images in conjunction with the contest itself (e.g. announcement of winners in publications and online, for promotion of future contests, etc.). But many contests, especially those run by larger organizations, state that they can use *any* entry however they want, in perpetuity. In most cases, the language is boilerplate and may not be something an organization intends to take advantage of; Regardless, you should only enter contests and upload images if you are comfortable with the language.
Those of you who are more into dramatic recreations might want to click through to read our screen play about a fictional negotiation between Promotions Person and Mr. Lawyer, written by Wetpixel moderator TheRealDrew.
SCREEN PLAY FOR YET UNTITLED MOVIE, TENTIVELY TITLED “A LAWYER”
FILMING TO START SUMMER 2010
HIGHLY CONFIDENTIAL AND TO BE DISTRIBUTED ON A NEED TO KNOW BASIS.
The following is a fictional story, not based on actual event and any resemblance to any person or place is coincidental. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Make sure to read in a well-ventilated room with good lighting. Do not take candy from strangers. Check oncoming traffic both ways before crossing the street.
[Fade To Scene]
[Scene: Small office, small desk, camera rolls in front of doorway. Person behind desk reading papers to his left, periodically typing on the laptop to his right. Another person crosses the doorway and knocks.]
Person: Hi Mr. Lawyer.
Lawyer: Hi Promotions Person. (We see the lawyer cringe ever so slightly, he is experienced enough to know that when Promotions actually comes to his office, it is going to be one of those “I got a brilliant idea and I need to do it, regardless of whether you can say for sure, but I need you for sure to sign off legally” questions.)
Promotions: We want to use a short listed image from the contest.
Lawyer: Okay, let me see what you are talking about. (Promotions Person puts down a sheet of paper)
Promotions: These are the rules.
Lawyer starts looking at the sheet and looks up almost instantly. Cut shot to the following:
4.1 By entering this contest You agree that any (winning or short listed) image
Lawyer: What does a shortlist mean?
Promotions: Oh the shortlist is the list of images that the judges thought could win the contest, even though some of them did not win.
Lawyer: Got it. The winning image, then the ones that would have otherwise won. So if we had a second and third place, they would have placed second and third.
Promotions: No silly, we had a second and third place, they are winners also.
(Direction: Cut to lawyer typing a note on laptop as follows “What is a winning image may not be clear, make sure to double check this later.”)
Lawyer: Ah, okay, the one that would have been in fourth place then.
Promotions: No, we also award an Honorable Mention.
Lawyer (realizing where this is heading): I assume you meant Honorable Mentions, plural, right?
Promotions: Of course.
Lawyer: Got it.
Promotions: Good, we are talking about short listed. The ones that were narrowed down by the judges along the way.
Lawyer: I am with you; from the entries the entire pool is narrowed down to a more specific pool from which the winning images and honorable mentions are selected.
Promotions: YES!! Exactly!!! Can I use this short listed image? (Places photo in front of lawyer.)
Lawyer: (Looks at the image, taken by Joe Smith.) Okay, please let me see the letter or an email from Joe Smith acknowledging he knows that he is on the short list.
Promotions: Ummm, we don’t have one.
Lawyer: Okay, we can work around that. How about the certified receipt and copy of the letter you sent to him?
Promotions: Oh, we don’t have a copy of the certified receipt.
Lawyer: You really should be sending these things certified, but a copy of the letter itself may work.
Promotions: Sorry, didn’t mean to be unclear, the reason we do not have a copy of the certified receipt is because we did not send any letters out.
(Lawyer grabs a couple of aspirin, pops them then a small smile develops and a slight chuckle)
Lawyer: Yeah, guess sometimes I am old school, so can I see the email you sent to Joe Smith letting him know he is on the short list?
Promotions: Didn’t send those either.
Lawyer: Well since short listed is a rather broad term and not really clarified, it is risky using the image.
Promotions: But even a 3 year old knows what short listed means, c’mon you went to law school, you have to be smarter than that.
(Lawyer, internal monologue that we can hear “If I was smarter than that I would have gone to medical school.” Lawyer sighs.)
Promotions: Sometimes you are just seem a bit dense and picky. Take a look, here is a copy of the email and attachments that were sent to the judges with the short listed images.
Lawyer: Good, at least there is an internal document showing that there is a shortlist of some kind. (Looks at the email and short listed images, starts frowning.) Um, the images are stunning, but I do not see the picture Joe Smith took. Maybe I missed it because I am not an expert in underwater photography, and some of these images look very similar, almost like duplicates (cue foreshadowing music, subtle, more of a feel and unobtrusive), but I am pretty sure I would be able to spot it - I would assume a Great White Shark in Coats and Tails would jump out at me, particularly with the seal playing the piano to accompany it.
Promotions: Whoops, sorry wrong email. The was the last round of short listed images. Joe Smith made it to one of the earlier rounds of short listed images.
Lawyer: ROUNDS of short listed images?!
Promotions: Yes. It takes a couple of passes to go through them all.
(Lawyer grabs another two aspirin and a quick shot of bourbon to chase them, which is in his coffee cup. It is almost 9:30AM, no need to let the headache get too far out of control.)
Lawyer: Okay, do you have anything at all showing the shortlist?
Promotions: Of course, here you go. The email for the first of the four short listed emails.
Lawyer: It is kind of tenuous.
Promotions: We MUST be able to do this or we cannot do our job properly.
Lawyer: It is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
Promotions: The Senior VP of Promotions is insisting we get this done and will talk to your boss.
Lawyer Picks Up The Phone and Calls VP of Legal for the Caribbean Company, the company he works for and which is owned by Holding Company.
Lawyer: Yeah Joe, I have an issue about short listed images in a contest (explains what short listed images are to the best of his ability based on the conversation.) Yeah, Humhum. It is not clear, but Promotions is insisting and the said the SVP of Promotions wants it done. (Pause) Yeah, it is risky and unclear, but it is real important to them (Pause) Okay. (Hangs up)
Lawyer: The VP was not too happy with me and that call, but I plead your case. He is going to check with the Sr VP of Legal for the Caribbean Company and get back to me. I’ll give you a call when I hear.
(Lawyer gets call every 15 minutes from Promotions to see if there is any news, finally 3 hours later, record time, Lawyer gets the answer and calls Promotions)
Lawyer: The Senior VP of Legal called the VP of Legal who called me. Good news - since it is so important to you, might as well try it. Come to my office and bring the rest of the rules, the sooner the better. You’ll be right over? Good.
(Cut to clock showing 8:00PM and pan to Lawyer is putting on his coat. Promotions bursts through the door.)
Promotions: Hey there. What a great day, was just in a limo with Superstar who took me all over the place, had a great lunch, met the media, went to that great new music club for early afternoon drinks. Just great. Here are the rules, take a look at them and get back to me in the morning. No time to chat, I need to get to the world premiere of Superstar’s movie. The after party is going to be killer. See you in the morning.
(Lawyer takes off his jacket, picks up the phone, calls the local deli for a delivery, starts looking at the rules and reaches for the bottle. Passage of time, flipping of papers, clock shows almost midnight, lawyer gets up, puts on jacket and heads out.)
(Scene: Light coming through office window. Clock shows 9:00AM. Lawyer picks up phone, cut to empty office of Promotions, phone ringing on desk, no one in office. Lawyer places phone down. Similar sequence an hour later. Clock on Lawyer’s Desk shows a little after 1:00PM and lawyer is opening up a dish with what looks to be warm pasta - steam is the tell tale. Picks up fork, Promotions walks in, looking slightly the worse for wear.)
Promotions: Hey, good morning!! What a great party last night.
Lawyer: Good afternoon, glad you had a good time. (Sighs and pushes the hot meal off to the side.) Well I went through the rules and there are some things, well many many things, we should discuss. Who drafted this?
Promotions: We did with the help of all the other companies owned by Holding Company. It gives us everything we need to do our jobs.
Lawyer: Okay. Anyway, let’s go through this, shall we? The first line says
You submit may be used by Organisation Name (and its partners)
Lawyer (continuing): So where is this being used?
Promotions: Holding Company has a new magazine about diving in Indonesia. Caribbean Company specializes in Caribbean diving, so the short listed image will be used by the Indonesia Company – if you knew anything Great White Sharks and Seals are only found in Indonesia.
Lawyer: Ummm, the Indonesia Company is not a partner of Caribbean Company.
Promotions: Of course it is.
Lawyer: Technically, it is not.
Promotions: You are doing it again.
Lawyer: If someone wants to sue us because of the use of the short listed image in the Indonesia Company magazine they are going to want proof that they are a partner. There is no partnership agreement and truthfully, we do not want to be partners with Indonesia Company. If the Indonesia Company goes under, if we are a partner with them, we can be liable as Caribbean Company. That will not make us, or more importantly, Holding Company, very happy. And if we get sued and claim they are a partner and win, that opens up a whole can of worms.
Promotions: You really have a tendency to be a real pain in the neck. Do I have to call the SR VP Of Promotions about this? They want it done. Now.
Lawyer (looking at the plate of food and the last bit of steam coming off it and the chances of a hot meal disappear): “Okay, you know what? Fine. In this case I will let it go. But the language should be changed to partners, affiliates, subsidiaries and recognized legal entities. Actually, there is more to it, but let’s move on. Now this next bit.”
solely for marketing and promotions purposes of this contest or future contests and no other purpose,
Lawyer: Okay so we are giving Joe Smith’s image away.
Promotions: That would be kind of stupid, don’t you think? We are going to be selling things that include the image.
Lawyer: But it says solely for Marketing and Promotionsal purposes. Caribbean Company, wait I mean Indonesia Company, PAYS for marketing and promotions. Companies do not get income from Promotions or promoting something they have. Well, other than people buying things due to such marketing and promotions.
Promotions: I am really beginning to think you are the south end of a horse heading north. You know what? Scratch that analogy, you are what comes out of the south end of a horse heading north and I am just going to have the Sr VP of Promotions talk to people. Here is a list of the things we are going to do (slams down sheets of paper) and if you can’t sign off on this, I will find someone who will. (Door slam as Promotions heads out of office.)
Lawyer picks of the phone and shoots off an email to VP of Legal for Caribbean Company, better let them know what is coming…...
Flash Forward, 10 months later, Lawyer’s phone rings:
VP of Legal: You really got us into a bad situation, we lost the lawsuit.
VP of Legal: The Caribbean Company photo contest, that’s what. You signed off on what they wanted to do with the images!!!!
Lawyer: But I sent out the email describing what they wanted and my concerns with it. The Sr VP of Promotions really wanted it done and you and the Sr. VP of Legal said to just do it.
VP: Are you brain dead or something? When we said just do it, we did not mean to leave our backsides hanging out in the wind. Didn’t you go to law school? That is what is says on your resume, right?
Lawyer: But, Promotions wanted….
VP: I do not need to hear your buts. Who cares what Promotions wants? It is our job to help as much as possible, but need to protect the Caribbean Company. A first year law student could see the holes in what you signed off on. Who cares if it seems that the rules could only mean one thing. You KNOW how contracts work, correct? That things are construed against the drafter, that specific controls over the general, that all words must be given meaning? Again, I ask, did you really go to law school?!
Indonesia Company gave away mouse pads that have a calendar at the Amazing Underwater Trade Show Held In Boise, you know the one where you pay $100 a day to walk around and see things, and the mouse pad includes Joe Smith’s image. We also lost all the other suits. Do I really need to go through all the holes that are in the rules? Anyway, Indonesia Company is out of business because of this and since we were determined to be their partner, we are on the hook. Start brushing up on more partnership law to see how much of a bath we are going to take on this. Unreal that we had to devote so much time to a photo contest of all things. You really need to get a sense of priorities.
Lawyer hangs up the phone. Grabs the bottle of aspirin and bourbon bottle from the drawer. Heads out the door and leaves pass key at security desk.
(Scene: Flash Forward, 6 months later, Lawyer on a beach, sipping a rum drink and picks up newest copy of a diving magazine. Flips through the magazine and sees an announcement for a photo contest, quickly scans the rules, and starts to smile as he picks up his laptop. He selects a couple of images and emails them to the contest. He then picks up a copy of a local real estate magazine and camera cuts to a advertisement of a beachfront home with a hefty price tag. Camera pans up and an evil look crosses over Lawyer’s face. Focus on his hand reaching for his drink, then slow focus to the ocean in the background as the drink loses focus.)
[Fade to Black]