PhotoshopNews.com
Jul 1, 2005

Digital Picture of Britain competition

From dpreview.com comes a story about a new BBC TV series called A Digital Picture of Britain presented by pro photographer Tom Ang. (See original story) On the surface it may seem like a reasonable premise but the show and its web site is also running a photo competition that has raised the ire of British professional photographic community.

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) already has run afoul of professional photographers by requiring an overly broad rights requirement to shoot for BBC professionally. With this new show and the competition it seems the BBC is intent on accumulating large numbers of photographic images in essence, for free. Buried in the rules (you actually must navigate to a second level of the rules to find this) is an overreaching clause that says:

The rules state ‘…you agree, by submitting your contribution, to grant the BBC a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, play, make available to the public, and exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to your contribution worldwide and/or incorporate your contribution in other works in any media now known or later developed for the full term of any rights that may exist in your contribution, and in accordance with privacy restrictions set out in the BBC’s Privacy Policy.’

To see these you must first view the Competition rules and then click on the BBC ‘Terms of Use’ link.

The BBC is financed by a TV licence paid by all British households. It does not have to serve the interests of advertisers, or produce a return for shareholders. However, professional photographic organizations feel that the BBC has overstepped their respocibilities to the public in this Competition.

Gwen Thomas, the Executive Director Business & Legal Affairs of The Association of Photographers has authored a letter send to a variety of media including the Guardian, Times, Independent and Observer that says;

May we firstly congratulate the BBC on their ‘A Digital Picture of Britain’ series which is well executed, informative and includes stunning images from some of the countries top photographers. We look forward to the forthcoming exhibition at the Tate. However, I wish we could be as glowing about the competition that accompanies the programme or, more precisely, the terms and conditions under which members of the public must submit their images.

On first sighting the competition rules are simple, easy to understand and mirror many other competitions with regard to the use to which the competition organiser can use the images. If these were the only rules then we could applaud the BBC, but they’re not. In order to submit their images the amateur photographer (the competition isn’t open to professionals) has to agree to having read the “site’s terms and conditions”. These terms include giving the BBC the right to do whatever they like with the image, including selling it onto other companies (BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm automatically springs to mind) without sharing any of the fees they receive with the contributor. Images can become iconic – Korda’s image of Che Guevara. The army private’s photos of torture in Algreb Iraq are classic examples. Shouldn’t the author of an image enjoy the fruits of their creation?

Not content with this, the amateur has to agree that the contribution is not defamatory and “does not infringe any laws” – if it does then they indemnify the BBC against all legal fees, damages and other expenses the BBC may incur. Granted, the amateur doesn’t have to agree to any of these and can decide not to submit their image. But that’s not the point is it? Many will agree the terms without either reading or understanding what they could be liable for. The competition rules read like a commercial contract, are the BBC trying to mine the general public for free content for their web and print publications? How many lawyers, never mind lay people, know all the laws in all the countries where these images can be viewed online?

The Association of Photographers would advise any professional photographer that these terms are very onerous, one-sided and to be avoided at all costs. If asked we would advise the general public to do the same.

Surely the BBC has a duty of care to the license paying public?

Gwen Thomas
Executive Director Business & Legal Affairs
The Association of Photographers
81 Leonard Street
London EC2A 4QS
02077396669

Gwen Thomas
Executive Director
Business & Legal Affairs

The Association of Photographers Ltd
81 Leonard Street
London EC2A 4QS
T: +44 (0)20 7739 6669 F: +44 (0)20 7739 8707M

8 Responses to “Digital Picture of Britain competition”

  1. Keith Dannemiller Says:

    I would hope that the Association of Photographers Ltd. missive is indeed read by many of those Brits who contemplate submitting images to the BBC content library. I think it is healthy and instructive when the issue of copyright affects the general population and not just the professional photographic community. We can complain forever about the freelance contributors contract with the New York Times (with which the BBC’s has much in common) but a scam like this, and the resulting controversy will bring home to a lot more folks just what is happening to the notion of copyright these days.
    I would appreciate any updates to this story.

  2. F Johnson Says:

    My letter to the BBC –

    Regarding the BBC’s terms of use of photographers images for “A Digital Picture of Britain”.

    We photographers deserve to be justly compensated for our work. A photograph is the property of it’s creator. The question is will the BBC support and honor the contribution of creative professionals and amateurs, or does it seek to abuse and essentially steal someone else’s property to use whenever and however you want without proper compensation by the BBC. The BBC is an institution that should aspire towards and set an example of the highest ethics and fair business practices. The following terms are an indefensible attempt at cheating individuals out of their rightful compensation for the BBC’s use of their work.

    The rules state ‘…you agree, by submitting your contribution, to grant the BBC a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, play, make available to the public, and exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to your contribution worldwide and/or incorporate your contribution in other works in any media now known or later developed for the full term of any rights that may exist in your contribution, and in accordance with privacy restrictions set out in the BBC’s Privacy Policy.’

    This merits coverage and an open discussion of this issue both on “A Digital Picture of Britain” and on BBC news. Let’s see just how open, honest, and impartial the BBC is when it comes to telling the truth about itself. “The BBC is run in the interests of its viewers and listeners.” I think the viewers and listeners would be very interested in hearing the truth about how the BBC uses the work of other people.

  3. Chris Howes Says:

    I’m British, paying a licence fee – a legal requirement for owning a television – and this licence stinks. The problem I’ve come up against is that, when telling non-pro photographers of such matters (rights grabs aren’t new – just the scale of them), they often can’t see the point. To them, a photo is cheap to take (especially with digital cameras) and they don’t care that someone else makes money. Explaining carefully to a plumber how I won’t mind doing some plumbing work for free, thereby undercutting him and losing a job, only partially works as an explanation – because he knows that this isn’t ‘free’ in terms of time, effort or expense. Anyone got a really good, clear, understandable argument to use to explain to the man in the street?

  4. André Lichtenberg Says:

    I’m another tax payer who also pays the TV license. I’m sad by the fact that the rules of this BBC competition which states… “you agree, by submitting your contribution, to grant the BBC a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable right and license to use, reproduce, etc…” By doing that the BBC protects its legal side against the photographer and grants itself with the rights to sell those images in perpetuity via its own picture library. The creators of the images on the other hand will gain nothing from the revenue of the images and yet in the following year will be asked to pay another contribution of the TV license to help keep the BBC running. Something smells bad in all that…. I don’t get it!
    AHHHH… MAYBE I DO!

  5. Nat Bocking Says:

    Just to put things in context. Here is the BBC rate card to use any of their stills in another TV broadcast. It is not online but you can ask for a copy of all the BBC picture library rates from http://www.bbcresearchcentral.com

    Given that these rates compare about the same from other image libraries, anyone can see considerable sums of money are saved by getting them for free. If the BBC do then sell these images to anyone else, be it print online or broadcast, ordinary people will be getting cheated. Let’s hear from the BBC that they intend to do nothing of the kind.

    Flash Fees – Terrestrial TV

    First Flash:

    UK £80
    Australia £40
    USA £80
    Europe £80
    Rest of World £60
    World £250

    Repeats: 50% of above

    Unlimited UK television for 5 years £325
    Unlimited Worldwide television for 5 years £575
    First broadcast on cable & satellite – 100% of terrestrial
    Video/DVD – 100% of terrestrial
    Cable & Satellite – add 50% of terrestrial OR for first broadcast – 100% of terrestrial fee.

  6. john coxon Says:

    I am like many of my professional photography colleagues disgusted but not surprised by the BBC’s latest “picture grabbing tactics” and it is rife with them as a practice, stealing copyright from ordinary people and avoiding paying anything for images in so many areas of their remit.

    We also have in the UK, for example, the National Tourist board running picture grabbing competitions inviting the unsuspecting public with their modest diggies to provide them with images to support their wealthy industries at no cost to them, so many ordinary people who are happy to get in print , be acknowledged or noticed and yet know nothing about the international rules that apply to all intellectual property , regardless of who the creator is . These organisations cynically exploited and need bringing to task.. the BBC parades to the world as a unique and righteous global company but their ethics, as in this case, are far from pure and represents institutional deceit . I am so glad to see this thread here and to have the opportunity to comment.

    Anyone, amateur or pro with a camera should , as a hard and fast rule, insist that they retain their lawful copyright under all circumstances unless the organisation are prepared to pay a very high premium to take over that universal right.

  7. J Alex Guy Says:

    Was going to enter some pictures for the BBC Digital Britian, but after reading decided not too.

  8. Tom Gardner Says:

    Sadly this is an increasingly common trend in photo competitions and is clearly seen by many organisations as a very cheap way of getting lots of (often very good) stock material on the subject of their choice. Now I head for the small print before I even look at at the prizes on offer, and all too often don’t get any further.

    I guess the thing that riles me most is the way these terms often apply to ALL submitted entries, not just winning ones. At least those that want rights to just the winning ones give you a prize of some sort in return for your picture.

    I feel there should be regulation on competition terms that restricts the use to *winning* material only, to a reasonable use directly associated with the competition and it’s associated publicity, exhibition and publication only. That would nip the problem in the bud.

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