Photography Contests & the Uninformed

There is a disturbing trend I’m spotting as more and more hobbyists turn to their new found passion/talents for digital photography.

Corporations like camera manufacturers, airlines and other high profile companies offer a meager prize and then in bury in the fine print or legalese somewhere that by entering this contest you hereby agree:

  1. to grant the contest organizers all rights to reproduce the pictures
  2. that the organizers may use your picture with no guarantees of a byline

As a photography instructor, I came across one such contest recently–College Seen. I understand with the budget cuts and so on, that most community colleges and universities have done away with staff photographers yet have a need for pictures.

That need will never go away, but the powers-that-be in higher education seem to hire lots of writers year after year without much thought for photographers. So how can I in good conscience encourage my students to participate in such trickery? Here’s the fine print in one such contest found in #6 Conditions of Participation:

By entering this competition, you agree that the Foundation retains the right to unlimited use of the submitted photographs for Foundation publicity, promotion, and advertising purposes, without compensation. Name recognition will be given to the photographer when possible, but is not guaranteed. As a condition of participation, you waive any claim of infringement against the Foundation based upon use of the submitted photograph, and agree to hold the Foundation harmless from any claims or expenses arising as a result of any allegation that you did not own or were not authorized to allow publication and reproduction of the photograph.

Most of the conditions, I can understand. Students and beginners need something to shoot for and a carrot on a stick to motivate them. I’m not even suggesting that the prize is not worth the effort.

But the line where it says  there is no guarantee of a byline or name recognition is downright offensive coming from an educational body which is supposed to be a role model.

Using someone’s work without attribution in writing circles is plagiarism. What is it when it’s a picture?