Think before you submit
I recently saw this extremely cool, probably once-in-a-lifetime photo of a tanker fire and lightning strike on CNN's "iReport" website:
(Photo by Chris Phillips. If it weren't a stupid Flash slide-show I would have simply linked to the photo instead of...um...borrowing a copy to show here).
Basically, iReport is CNN's site of user-submitted content: news stories, photos and video. They get content without having to pay a reporter, photographer or cameraman, you get some tiny modicum of notoriety for your work. However, a wise man (or woman) may ask "What exactly do you give up when submitting your work to their site?" Quite a bit, actually:
By submitting your material, for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge, you hereby grant to CNN and its affiliates a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, telecast, rerun, reproduce, use, create derivative works from, syndicate, license, print, sublicense, distribute and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without payment to you or any third party.
(via iReport's TOS page).
So basically, they can do whatever they want with your image forever and you get neither a dime for it, nor a say in its' use. What if they license it to WalMart's advertising department for $2,000,000? You get nothing. What if they license it to the KKK, the NRA, NARL, the ACLU, the GOP or some other group that goes against every fiber of your being? Tough shit.
So, before you submit your work to online photo contests or news sites or pretty much anywhere else...remember to read the fine print, then read the fine print, and read the fine print, and always remember to read the f*cking fine print. And think about what your image is worth to you, and what it may be worth to you in the future. Do you really want to see a photo of your grandma blowing out her birthday candles on a billboard advertising anal-itch cream? Yeah, me neither.