Monday, March 26, 2007

Crappy (photo) TOS, Part I

After seeing a few too many "Submit your photos to our site for the chance to be famous" sites, I've decided to use this space to point out the subtle nuances of the crappy "Terms of Service" (hereafter "TOS") that go along with many of those offers.

Frequently, in the fine print (that no one ever reads) of news organizations or online photography contests, there will be a line which reads (roughly) "By sending us your photo, you give up all rights to it, and give us rights to do whatever we want with it, including selling it, forever and ever. Amen. Oh, and you get nothing for it in return. Have a nice day.". So in the off, off, *off* chance that you happen to catch that Pulitzer Prize winning moment (it happens occasionally, as with the amateur who snapped the photo of the firefighter holding the child's limp body after the Oklahoma City bombing years ago) and submit it to CNN, you'd have given up almost all rights to the photo.

I'll try to find these crappy Terms of Service and highlight them here. Who knows. Maybe the information will help somebody retain some rights to their property.

First on the list is CNN. The "screw you and your rights" paragraph of their TOS reads:

"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, syndicate, license, print, sublicense, distribute and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof, as incorporated in any of their programming or the promotion thereof, in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without payment to you or any third party"...

So, by the simple act of submitting a photo to them (*just* submitting. They don't even have to publish it where you had hoped to have it published!), you waive your rights. They can take your photo of little Johnny, "license" or "sublicense" it to a stock photography company who sell it to a client of theirs. Then one day you're driving down Hollywood Boulevard and look up to see little Johnny on a billboard the size of a farmhouse with the caption "When my anal warts flair up, I always reach for ButtItchBeGone! It's anal-riffic(tm)!!"

(While specifically targeting photo TOS, it should be mentioned that some crappy TOS cover much more than just photos. For example, today's example, CNN, also applies the TOS to their "Send us your vehicle of the future designs". If you happen to have some revolutionary new idea/design/concept, they're well within their rights to take your idea, sell it to Detroit (or Japan, more than likely), reap the rewards, and leave you wondering why you just gave away the farm.

So people, just watch what you submit and where. It could come back to bite you one day.