Friday, April 10, 2009

USA Today and launches an online photo contest to highlight iconic American images.

USA Today and have launched an online photo contest today to highlight iconic American images.

"The contest, which will run through May 8, invites people to submit images that capture the essence of the USA and best represent it to foreign visitors. The photos from 10 finalists will be used in the U.S. Travel Association's Discover America campaign to promote the country internationally and displayed on and, and in USA TODAY., launched by U.S. Travel in 2008, is the first official website that promotes U.S. tourism internationally. It is the result of a cooperative agreement between U.S Travel and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many countries centralize their national tourism campaigns under cabinet-level ministries or other government agencies, however the USA does not."

In the rules of the contest it states,
"By entering the Contest, each contestant grants to Sponsor an exclusive, royalty-free and irrevocable right and license to publish, print, edit or otherwise use the contestant’s submitted entry, in whole or in part, for any purpose and in any manner or media (including, without limitation, the Internet) throughout the world in perpetuity, and to license others to do so, all without limitation or further compensation. Each contestant further agrees that if his/her entry is selected by Sponsor as the winning entry, he/she will sign any additional license or release that Sponsors may require, and will not publicly display his or her photo submission without the express permission of Sponsor."
I've never seen a contest yet where you didn't have to grant the sponsor a royalty free license to use the photo in perpetuity, however, I have also never seen a contest where you agree, in advance, to agree to any additional license or release the sponsors say you have to agree to at any time in the future. Why would any sane person agree to agree to any unknown license or release action without any kind of limitation on what they might have to agree to? It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever to me.

Moreover, the rules are extremely one-sided in that they don't speak to attribution at all. According to the rules your photo can be used forever, and the sponsor doesn't have to say who created the image.

On the surface the contest looks like a great way to get your name "in lights," however, upon further review, I for one will skip the opportunity. It's too expensive.

I have written USA Today about my objections. If they answer, I will let everyone know what they had to say.


John said...

This part is also unusual. Granting others the license?

and to license others to do so, all without limitation or further compensation.

Ned Levi said...

John, actually it's not unusual for a contest to allow the sponsor to be able grant unlimited numbers of licenses of winning photos for use by a variety of publications and organizations, and use it an unlimited number of times for themselves.

When you enter a contest, you expect that, as you're in it for the notoriety through attribution. Actually you want the photo to be licensed as often as possible, as your name will then be seen each time the photo is viewed. Entrants are hoping that by winning they can gain exposure and future photographic opportunities.

Therefore it's also problem that there is no mention of attribution in the rules since that's why anyone would enter the contest and grant a royalty free license to use the photograph in perpetuity to the sponsor.

What is unusual is the requirement of agreeing to unknown and yet unwritten future licenses and releases. It doesn't make sense to agree in advance to any agreement put under your nose, without limitation or having any knowledge of what those agreements might say.

Ian said...

Good luck!

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