Saturday, March 1, 2008

Xerox - "MyShot" Takes Aim At Unsuspecting Students

Xerox (NYSE: XRX) seems to have a problem with a healthy respect for photographers copyrights. Namely, if you are a student, they want yours. I've been watching this latest in photo contest rights grabs. At first, Xerox wanted ownership and unlimited use of all entries, by both Xerox, and their undefined "designees", and they wanted to use all entries (not just the winners) for any and all marketing purposes, and furthermore, they wanted to prohibit you from using your own work for anything but self promotion for 5 years. The fine print of the contest rules adds insult to injury, stating that all entries (not just the winners) are owned by Xerox.

Yikes!

Recently, Xerox inserted an explanatory text box on the rules page, with a carefully crafted statement that on the surface, appears to indicate that their usage is limited to “winning photographs” for an 18 month period. A careful reading of this new text reveals that Xerox merely limited the period of exclusivity, and not the usage period. The fine print still provides Xerox with ownership and unlimited usage of any and all entries, including non‐winners, for an unlimited time, in all countries, throughout the world. Rather than limiting usage of the photographs to promotional use related to the contest, the rules provide Xerox with the unrestricted right to use winning photographs for any and all advertising, promotional and other purposes without further compensation to the student photographer. Apparently, someone at Xerox got the bright idea to use a photo contest to source images for their ad campaigns. Scoundrels!

But it gets worse.

(Continued after the Jump)

What makes this contest particularly egregious is that Xerox has set their sights on unsuspecting student photographers, who are often eager to see their work in print, and are unlikely to read the fine print, and do not yet understand how to protect their rights. Further, they are using the schools and faculty members, many of whom might not read the fine print, to draw students into the contest.

And there's more:

Each winner is required by the rules to certify that they will "hold harmless" Xerox in the event that any third party sue sues Xerox as the result of their use of the photographs in their advertising. Nice - Let's take a billion-dollar company and transfer millions of dollars in liability to a student contest entrant who is already weighed down with student loan debt and is about to enter the profession during one of the most challenging periods in the history of photography. While it may be reasonable for Xerox to require that students certify that they are in fact the copyright owner of an entry and have obtained proper model releases from pictured subjects, Xerox steps over the line yet again by limiting the entrant's ability to sue Xerox in the event that Xerox oversteps it's already egregious boundaries for use of the photos, essentially eviscerating the rights of the entrant.

Further, the language of the contest rules would confuse even an experienced, seasoned professional photographer.

Oh, and one more thing - if you're "lucky enough" to be a winner, you have to sign a separate, as yet undisclosed contract with Xerox. It probably has something in there about giving away your first born or something. To an aspiring photo student, it feels the same way to do so with your first, best, images.

This contest (and others) should be about who took the best picture, not about who can screw unsuspecting students and photographers out of their rights. Xerox, time to get the white‐out. and Limit your usage to winning entries only, and only to promotion of the myShots contest. Remove the terms providing Xerox with ownership of entries. Revise the “hold harmless” clause to remove any liability placed upon the students, other than for falsifying their copyright ownership information. Limit the exclusivity clause to Xerox competitors only, and apply this only to the more significant prize winners. Allow students to make use of their own photographs during the exclusivity period, provided that they do not license usage to Xerox competitors. Provide students with approval rights and market‐rate compensation in the event that any winning image is selected by Xerox for usage other than promotion of the contest. Respect the rights of students and photographers. Do the right thing.

If you want to read the rules, check this link. MyShot08 contest rules.

After choking back the bile, send an e-mail to these folks:Be sure to take note of the folks who have signed on as sponsors of this contest rights grab, whose organizations are photo-centric and should know better by now:
  • Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE)
  • Fuji Film (NASDAQ: ADR)
  • H&H Color Lab
This is just getting silly. If your company relies on photographers, before you agree to sponsor contests/events, you should have as a requirement that you get to read and sign-off on contest/event rules so you don't reap the ire of the photo community!


Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Funny also that they are giving away a nonexistent Apple product the "Apple iTouch Player" I assume they mean the Apple iPod Touch.

Mark Scheuern said...

Even when amateurs do bother to read the fine print, they often don't care. Every time I've brought up the subject of contest rights grabs in response to a "hey, look at this cool photo contest!" posting, I've been met with either disinterest or hostility.

Here are some responses I recently got:

"I am NOT a professional photographer and have no desire to actively sell my work, regardless of what it's "value" may be."

"I was very excited to have won a spot in the calander because of the recognition of the talent it took to capture the moment in the way I did. The more *** wishes to use my image, the better as I am not looking to profit from photography."

"If the livelyhood of a 'professional' is truly threatened by the work of an amature, maybe some people need to consider a new line of work."

"it was just a contest. I like **** for their products"

"So let the big bad company collect them. So? If they use them later, great. Better things to worry about..."

These contests work even without the prospect of a nice prize. As with microstocks, we have a ready supply of ego-driven amateurs and companies eager to exploit them.

Anonymous said...

The photographer/ judges also should have known better to sign on and endoese such a contest.

Damien Franco said...

It's really hard on amatuer and aspiring professional photographers in this era. You want to get noticed, you put your "best" images everywhere they will get noticed, then three years down the road you have no rights to those images that may have helped launch your career. All of this in an internet driven world where, to tell you the truth, I have no idea what a "professional photographer" will be in 5 years.

Alex Menendez said...

I just sent my NICE letter to the folks up the ladder.
Thanks for bringing this to light, keep em coming.

Alex Menendez

jasphoto said...

John - What if WE / Someone runs a competition with similar rules. and just "toss" the images. We could reduce the number of images available to others trying to rip photographers off (amd for sale). Supply & demand would make the rest of our images worth more. These people obviously don't care about thier images - they shouldn't object. Besides we could give them the chance to win a few rolls of film.

Anonymous said...

Yawn........

Does anyone know if Obama won Texas yet.....

Beth Ann Kilberg-Walsh said...

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the MyShot08 photo contest. We appreciate you bringing them to our attention, as the intent of this contest has always been and continues to be to shine a spotlight on up-and-coming photographers. We’ve listened to the feedback of the photographic community and we’ve clarified some points in regards to our rules. We’ve posted our thoughts on the rules and regs MyShot08 page (www.myshot08.com).


Thanks again for engaging in the conversation and for advocating on behalf of photographers just starting their careers.



Best,

Beth Ann Kilberg-Walsh
Xerox Corp.

Richard said...

I think Damien has the most compelling argument to amateurs regarding this. As much as they can deny it, people enter these things for the notoriety otherwise no one would even bother.

"I won the Xerox photo contest."

"What did you get for it?"

"Bragging rights."

"Brag about what, the photo that was erased from your name?"

Photographer Italy said...

Last month I was in Africa with a photo tour full of amateur.
We was in Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, places from where there are not a lot of picture.
I saw their picture and were awful but from next month you will find a lot of photo of the two places in microstock agencies. I tried to explain to this folks the value of a good picture the value of our works. No way, no respect of the people whiel taking picture, no respect of nothing only a compulsive way of recording reality and they want to be published, the want to be know.
We ahve only to do our work at best and trying to explain...

George Quiroga said...

I think the reason many companies run contests is that it provides them a source of creative and "free" photography for future ads. Many even have the audacity to charge the photographer to "enter" the contest.

That is one reason I don't enter many contests. I don't want to spend time creating an image then pay someone else to use it as they wish. That is just not good for business.

However, if the company were photo related such as Nikon or Canon and the photographs are used to profile the photographer as much as the company's product then I can see a justification for entering and possibly getting some national advertising.

GQ

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! thanks a lot! ^^

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