Tuesday, June 1, 2021

MoMA is startlingly trying to use your photos for free, forever!

Fotoclubismo Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946-1964 MoMA ExhibitionThe Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is soliciting photographers to join the MoMA Photo Club and submit photos to MoMA in honor of their new exhibition, Fotoclubismo Brazilian Modernist Photography, 1946–1964. To add to the exhibition, MoMA is challenging photographers to “get outside and get creative” and participate in their new photo club by submitting photos to it.

They explain that every month they'll have a new challenge for photographers to submit new photos to the club. In their image solicitation, MoMA states,

“Share your own Abstractions from Nature—take a closer look at the world around you. How can you photograph something familiar in nature from a new perspective? Try zooming in; make it hard to guess what it is you’re capturing. Notice textures, search for new shapes, and play with angles.”

They follow saying,

“We can’t wait to see what you make. Share your photos with us using #MoMAPhotoClub. Select photos will be featured on our social channels, the MoMA website, and on digital screens in select New York City subways.”

If it's enticing to you to have your images featured on MoMA social media sites, their website and other publicly available locations, you better continue reading on the MoMA Photo Club page, past the video. You don't want to miss their critical statement about MoMA's rights to your photos submitted to MoMA.

To submit your photos, you need to use the hashtag, #MoMAPhotoClub. This is what MoMA states about the photos you share with MoMA when you use the hashtag.

“By tagging photos using #MoMAPhotoClub, you grant The Museum of Modern Art (“MoMA”) (and those authorized by MoMA) a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual, sublicensable, non-exclusive license to publicly display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivative works of such photos, in whole or in part (including, but not limited to, any associated captions and handles), in any media now existing or later developed, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and promotion, and inclusion on MoMA’s website and social media channels.”

Just in case you haven't run into this sort of rights grab before, let me explain what that paragraph means.

When you share your photos with MoMA via the hastag #MoMAPhotoClub, MoMA states you are legally granting them the following rights to your photographs:

  1. You're giving MoMA the right to publicly display your photos. Well that's okay as you're sharing the images with MoMA to do just that, but I don't think you're prepared for the rest of the rights they're taking. Also understand that on their Photo Club page, MoMA makes no promise to give you attribution for your photos. They could be posted and no one would know they're yours.
  2. You're giving MoMA the right to reproduce your image as they please. They can do more than just display it on their social media pages and website. They can make all the copies of your image that they desire and use them as they please.
  3. They can distribute copies of your photo anywhere they desire, in any quantity they wish to distribute.
  4. They can make derivative works of your photos without further permission or any compensation to you. You can't exercise any control of those derivative works, even if you find the derivative work degrading or offensive.
  5. They can create and associate captions and handles with your work, even ones you might find degrading or offensive.
  6. They can use your photos and derivative work in any media, for any purpose, even commercial, such as advertising, marketing, promotion and part of products.
  7. The above rights, according to MoMA are free of any compensation to you and are MoMA's in perpetuity.

You retain the copyrights and your right to use your submitted photos, but that said, their rights grab sucks away much, if not all of the value of your submitted images.

Whether or not their statement will hold up legally doesn't really matter. What matters is that they're trying for this rights grab.

To me, this rights grab is a horrible example for the art world. Here's one of the great art museums of the world who would never ask a painter, sculptor or textile artist, etc. to turn over their work for free and allow the museum to do anything with their art that the museum pleased, thus devaluing the artist's work. Yet, ironically via this photography exhibition, they're significantly devaluing the art of other photographers to almost zero due to this rights grab.

To MoMA I say unequivocally, photography is art. I'm positively outraged by your indefensible rights grab.

There's even more irony in this situation.

At the bottom of the Fotoclubismo exhibition page on the MoMA website, it discusses licensing of works of art in MoMA's collection, images in their publications, archival materials and even text in their publications. If you want to somehow use them, you'll need to obtain permission, and I'm sure pay compensation, but MoMA believes it's okay for MoMA to grab photographers' work for free.

Were it me, I'd tell MoMA what I think of their rights grab, by refusing to participate in the MoMA Photo Club and by writing to MoMA to tell them what you think of their valuation of your work and the work of other photographers.

If you want to write to MoMA about this issue, send a letter to Clément Chéroux, The Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, MoMA, 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019.


Harvey R.- New York said...

Wow, who would have thought that a museum would try a rights grab!!!

Elinor - Chicago said...

This is so maddening. I just sent a letter to Cheroux. We'll see if they change anything. I see that other photography blogs are writing about this problem too. The more this is exposed the better.

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