Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Don't Give Up Your Rights as an Artist

There's been some discussion on one the list serves I participate in about juried competitions, digital submissions, entry fees, and ownership rights after an image is submitted digitally.  Predictably, positions range from "I never submit to a juried competition if they charge a fee" to "many reputable organizations need to charge an entry fee to cover the associated costs".

All three of the not-for-profit artist organizations to which I belong -- the New Hampshire Art Association, the Vermont Center for Photography, and the Atlanta Photography Group -- find it necessary to charge entry fees for juried shows.  This is how they are able to keep their doors open and the lights on.  If I value the quality of the show and the judgment of the jurors, I don't begrudge the fee.  I consider it a contribution toward the support of the sponsoring organization.

There are numerous competitions and contests I hear about each week that promote themselves over the internet or in photography publications that offer incentives ranging from a chance to see my picture in a widely circulated publication to a variety of photo equipment, trips, or cash prizes.  Some charge an entry fee.  Many don't.  But the cost for entering a competition can be more than a monetary charge.  The sponsor might ask for something besides mere money.  The sponsor might ask for surrender of my ownership rights to the image. The sponsor might ask for unlimited and unrestricted use of my image.  Digital submissions can easily be used, reused, copied, published, reproduced, and promulgated.  If I give away the rights to the image, someone else can benefit from the use of my image without compensating or even crediting me.This is way too high a price for me to pay.

There is copious information available on the subject of property rights and licensing.  The American Society of Media Photographers is one source. Their website is full of resouces and links.  You don't have to be a member to access a lot of it.  Another source I personally found valuable is a book by John Harrington titled, Best Business Practices for Photographers.  This is a thick book but extremely readable, and a good part of it is devoted to the issues of ownership rights and licensing.

There is another resource I just recently became aware of.  It's called The Bill of Rights for Artists Campaign.

It's website says: 

The Bill of Rights for Artists campaign promotes the adoption of a set of ethical standards for competitions to which creative works is [sic] submitted, works such as photographs, music, film, and literary works.

The Bill of Rights is -

•an ethical set of standards for the protection of your rights in your creative works (e.g. photographs) submitted by you to competitions, such as photography competitions, and it was created to -
•provide the foundation for a campaign to combat the exploitation by private and public sector organisations of your exclusive rights in your creative works.

The campaign aims are as follows -

1.To provide everyone with a basic understanding of rights and their value,
2.To establish the Bill of Rights as the ethical standard to be followed when drafting terms and conditions for competitions involving the submission of creative works,

3.To obtain support for the Bill of Rights from private, public, and non-profit organisations,
4.To promote organisations and competitions that support the Bill of Rights,
5.To expose competitions that fail to comply with the Bill of Rights and to reduce the number of entrants attracted to such competitions.

This is a website that's worth checking out.  It might protect you from getting ripped off.

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