Sunday, June 1, 2008

Mind Your T&Cs - Getting it Right

Pound for Pound, © The Forum, May 2008

Shoot London offered the chance to get snapping in a fun way but it is also a commercial venture and teams were offered the opportunity to submit their work to its online photo library website Shoot Bank which is currently in production.

If you sign a contract make sure you understand all the terms. Thankfully, the Shoot London team provided an A4 sheet giving a brief definition of Royalty Free (RF), which is the only licence option they offered contributors. However, there is another licensing model in use, which offers greater control, and that's Rights Managed (RM). I urge anyone taking photographs for competitions or events to read the T&Cs carefully and get savvy about what's on offer; this includes knowing the difference between the common licensing models in use, copyright and model release issues. Here's why...
Shoot Bank is using a Royalty Free (RF) model for the photos from its Shoot Experience events and competitions.

What is the difference between RF and RM?
The basic distinction is that a Rights Managed license is defined by USE, whereas Royalty Free is a license defined by UNIT.

Rights Managed (RM) license fees are based on specific USE. Since all uses are recorded, clients will know ahead of time if there are any conflicts or concerns. The RM model allows clients to license an image with varying degrees of exclusivity, such as by category or geography in a specified time period.

Royalty Free (RF) licenses are based on UNITS and the RF license fee is essentially a standardized ‘purchase price’ for that unit. A unit could be a single image, a collection of images, or even a subscription period allowing unlimited access to images. The terms of an RF license grant clients virtually unlimited usage rights, so that the same image can be used by any company for any number of uses with few restrictions.
(These definitions are from the Pro-Imaging website page Stock Licensing Models. Accessed 29/05/2008 )

RM offers more protection and control over use. When a RM license is purchased it is good for that use only and for a limited length of time.

Copyright is not transferred with either the royalty-free or rights-managed license. Contrary to what some suggest, RF images are licensed; the license simply requires no future royalties (license fees) to be paid for extended use or if the image is used in various ways.

Images of people (and in some cases, property) without releases, should be licensed RM to control unauthorized commercial use.
(These points are from Acclaim Images – stock photography website. Accessed 29/05/2008)

The T&Cs for Shoot Bank stated that: This license means that the photograph is brought for a one-off fee that is "at a chosen size" where "the buyer is free to use it in as many ways (within permitted guidelines) as they wish. Other buyers may also buy the same RF rights to the photo - so one buyer cannot buy exclusive rights to a photo. With RF licensing only, these photos are likely to be used on websites, in brochures and flyers, not for large-scale advertising campaigns.

"It is likely that you have appeared in one of your photos from today's event. In order to sell photos commercially with recognisable people in them we need consent from the person in the photo. Shoot Bank will give buyers the information to ensure they use your photos in the appropriate way. They will not be permitted to use photos containing recognisable people in any way that may be seen as derogatory or offensive towards the person/people in the photo."

One clue in the day’s event, Out of sight, Out of mind, was realised by some teams by photographing a homeless man and his dog sitting on the walkway along the Thames. I don’t know how many people actually asked the man for permission to take his photograph or even explained what they were doing but it is a point that needs to be made as it is raises ethical and moral questions regarding what one photographs and how. Photographers need to be aware and sensitive especially when 60 groups descend on the same places causing bewildered shopkeepers and locals at Gabriel’s Wharf to ask The Forum team “What’s going on? Why are there so many people running around taking photographs?” If photography is all about communication then it helps to get the basics right.

Furthermore, without the man’s consent, i.e. through getting him to sign a model release form, photographs in which he is clearly recognisable cannot be exploited commercially. This refers to non-press use of the images, however, taking a picture of someone in a public place for press purposes is not problematic. In fact, the right to take photographs in public, including street photography, is subject to on-going debate, especially in the light of Metropolitan Police anti-terrorism campaigns as posted on iN-PUBLic's blog. I will look at this in detail in a future post as it ties in neatly with the Tate's current exhibition and course programme Photography in the Street and Studio

The photo library also wants exclusive rights to sell these images. Payment is at a 50:50 split, divided between all team members (that is a team of four).

Reading through the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) and after a discussion with the other members, I was unwilling to submit images to Shoot Bank. I have written and reported on issues around photo libraries, rights grabs and Intellectual Property for consumer magazines and have reported on conferences, such as the NUJ Photographers conference where invited organisations including the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) and the Designer and Artists Copyright Society (DASCS) debated these issues. I am also a member of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists.

It is up to the individual to make a decision but it should be an informed one. In an age of increasing media convergence where authors need to keep up-to-date with trends and legislation, the old adage seems pertinent: Forewarned is forearmed. What do you think?

Useful links to relevant organisations and articles:
Stock Artists Alliance (SAA)
Beyond the Lens
National Union of Journalists

British Journal of Photography
NUJ London Freelance Photographers' section
Richard Dedomenici whose art shenanigans joined The Forum for the day

Definitions of:
Royalty Free
Rights Managed

Original document in PDF SAA White Paper

UK British Council promotes Rights Grabbing Competition

Making money from stock photos

A few things you should know about copyright

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