Pro-Imaging Campaigns Against U.K. Government

Posted on 3/20/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Pro-Imaging, a Abergavenny, Wales-based professional photographer organization with a global membership base, has issued a protest against One NorthEast, the U.K. Regional Development Agency for the Northeast of England and part of the U.K. Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Pro-Imaging is challenging the terms of entry to One NorthEast's Student Challenge 2008, which invites submissions of creative ideas with a regional theme.

The competition requires entrants to transfer, irrevocably and unconditionally, copyright ownership and moral rights in the submitted works, in order to "reproduce, edit, use and exploit the products... in all media throughout the universe in perpetuity."

In creative circles, such terms are broadly referred to as an "all-rights grab," which remains common to competitions, despite near-universal opposition by professional creatives and organizations. The majority of those making a living through creative pursuits believe that only the rights pertaining to a given contest should be transferred, and all subsequent uses should be treated and remunerated as separate transactions.

Pro-Imaging describes it as "astound[ing] that a government agency would so boldly claim such all-encompassing rights from students, who would expect to look to U.K. regulatory bodies like BERR as examples of best practice for terms and conditions." The organization has notified One NorthEast of its disagreement with the practice of rights-grabbing, as well as of several instances of non-compliance with U.K. law. One NorthEast will be investigating the matter under formal complaints procedures, resulting in the preparation of a findings report.

One NorthEast is the latest target in Pro-Imaging's formal pursuit of equitable competition-entry terms. According to Pro-Imaging's Gordon Harrison, who is a landscape photographer, the organization's competition campaign was spurred by Corbis' "I Am Buried." Launched by the Bill Gates-owned agency last September, the competition targeted busy advertising creatives and the copyright conditions met with heavy criticism. For Pro-Imaging, it was the first instance of issuing a formal complaint.

"It has taken many months of preparation to get this campaign to the launch stage, analyzing endless competitions and formulating the tests by which to judge them," said Harrison. The campaign officially launched earlier this month, targeting the British Council's "Creative Cities" competition. The council's response was that rights-related concerns would be taken into consideration in the future.

Pro-Imaging's research reveals that rights-grabbing is rampant in both public and private sectors. Recent competitions by Adobe, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, National Geographic and Photo District News failed to meet Pro-Imaging's standards. These standards, dubbed the Bill of Rights, are available on Pro-Imaging's Web site and are used to rate competitions. Aiming to provide a "consumer report" on competitions and ensure that the legal rights of professional and amateur photographers are respected, Pro-Imaging also maintains publicly accessible lists of competitions and their "rights on" and "rights off" ratings.

"We felt that publishing a consumer report detailing what was wrong with competition terms and conditions was a very powerful weapon. It also is an educational aid to those who don't realize what is really happening in most competitions," said Harrison.

Pro-Imaging also offers an active list serve, an online discussion forum, a listing in the Adobe Photographers Directory and on its own Web site, which is promoted with a monthly ad campaign. The organization was established in 2005 to provide photographers with an online support group.

The desire to slow down the proliferation of royalty-free imagery was high among the reasons for the organization's formation. Seeing the royalty-free model as "doing huge damage to the earnings and perception of the value of professional photography," Pro-Imaging still retains its anti-RF stance. Membership is open only to photographers who agree not to produce royalty-free imagery on joining. While in the minority, this philosophy has a following in over 30 countries.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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