The problem with photography competition websites, T&Cs & rights grabs

The problem with photography competition websites, T&Cs & rights grabs

Have you ever read the Terms & Conditions for a photographic competition, or a photography sharing site? Probably not, no one wants to spend an hour sifting through the fine print that has been carefully tucked away behind the sofa. You are probably more distracted by the thought of entering a competition and winning the prize. Or that your photos will receive more exposure by entering; everyone wants exposure online in this day and age, selling their souls to get it. A clever tactic used to distract you from the real reason, a rights grab and free advertising material.

What you aren’t told, unless you carefully read the legions of Terms and Conditions, is that you are probably handing over the rights to your images to a faceless corporation in some form or another. Sometimes it will be a full transfer of the image rights; other times the copyright and ownership stays with the photographer but the company in question has essentially granted themselves free licence to use the image as they see fit. This means that as a photographer, you will get nothing for your hard work if they decide to use it for promotional reasons. It’s a shameful practice whereby companies prey on the hopes and dreams of aspiring photographers to persuade them to hand over good quality images for free. Ask yourself this, would you fix someone else’s car for free? Would you spend a day sitting in an office typing up reports for free? Would you ask a plumber to fix your boiler for the chance to win a holiday? Probably not, unless you were an intern hoping to get a foothold onto bigger things.

A company sure as hell won’t let you use their products or services for free, that’s why you are bombarded with advertising, so why should they expect you to handover your images for free?

Have a look at the text below from the Flickr Your Best Shot 2016 group:

2. Photo(s) that you submit to the Group are referred to as “Content.” You retain ownership to any Content you submit to the Group, however, you grant Yahoo a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license (but not the obligation), with the right to sublicense, use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) in connection with: (a) Yahoo Services, including syndication of Yahoo Services meaning distribution of a Yahoo product or player on a third party site, service, product, application or platform; (b) promotion of the Group via Yahoo owned media properties and third party social media platforms; and (c) advertising and promotional activity of Yahoo Services (in all mediums and any media now known or hereafter developed,) including but not limited to, social media efforts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), blog posts, Flickr galleries via links to social media efforts, email communications, and PR efforts (press affiliates via broadcast and digital). Yahoo Services is defined as the collection of resources offered by Yahoo, including without limitation various apps, products, communications tools, forums, shopping services, search services, personalized content and branded programming through Yahoo’s network of properties which may be accessed through any various medium or device now known or hereafter developed.

If you enter, be prepared for a multi-billion pound company to have free access your work. That’s what Royalty Free in the above means. This isn’t the first T&C clause we have seen like this, and I am sure it won’t be the last. It makes you think, maybe it is worth reading the T&Cs after all. If we all did, we would realise that these corporations are conning you in broad daylight (ok, its winter at the moment, so daylight is sorely missing). Facebook does it.  Instagram does it. Tumblr does it. Twitter does it. Yahoo does it. The list goes on. Anything you upload through their service is given away for free. Some competitions, such as Gurushots and the Telegraph Big Picture have curtailed their T&Cs to only allow for the image to be used inconjuction with promoting the Competition and nothing else. Which is slightly better, we guess.

Maybe that competition isn’t so promising and innocent after all?

The counter argument is that these companies are generally providing a service for free, so have to make their money from somewhere. Ahhh, Big Data.


Co-founder of TheTimeChamber, has a habit of thinking he knows what he is doing when it comes to coding, and in reality he is just pressing buttons. Takes photos and drinks tea by the gallon whilst dreamily staring out the window wondering where to go next.