Be careful of photo contests – read the fine print!

There are two types of business people in the world that I can say I have complete and total hatred of. These are patent trolls and copyright trolls. While copyright trolls aren’t as well known at the former, they are just as bad. One particular one I am going to point out today is Parent Media Group and their copyright trolling in the guise of a child photo contest. My good friend Udi from DIYPhotography.net pointed out this particular troll to me today in his post about it. What is so bad about this one is that the Parent Media Group doesn’t seem to care about anyone’s reaction to their clause, they just bank on the fact that very few people will read it and not complain, therefor filling their photo pool with a ton of images that they can then use without paying anyone.

What’s the issue?

The issue here is the Parent Media Group’s new Baby Photo Contest which can be found at http://www.thecutekid.com. Come on, who wouldn’t want to enter their kid into a contest that could be worth a $25,000 college tution? I have a wife and two kids all in college right now, what I wouldn’t give for 25 grand to help pay for some of this! The catch is that in their terms of use (read it here) it states:

Parent Media Group, Inc. has the right to use your photos on our site as well as for marketing purposes for an unlimited time frame.

Exsqueeze me? You want the unlimited lifetime use of my child’s photo to do with as you please? Uhh…I don’t think so. Let’s think about this a second. Let’s say 50,000 people enter this contest, and the prize is $25,000 for college, that means they are buying an annuity that will come do in about 18 years, so that’s costing them about $5,000? That’s an invest of about 10 cents per image for enough images to last them years.

Why is this misleading? It is on several fronts. Mostly because the contest is purely a front to gather tens of thousands of images that they now have the rights to use. Secondly, knowing that many people won’t grasp the complete implication of their release of their images, they are, in effect, tricking people into sending their images in.

So why is this a big deal?

I don’t know the people at the Parent Media Group nor can I guess what their intentions are, and that is exactly what bothers me. What if I believe strongly in Pro-Choice but the Parent Media Group decides they are going to start a campaign against it, with this clause they can use my own child’s images in a campaign against something I believe in. What if they decide to run my photo on the cover of a magazine that sells tens of thousands of copies, and I don’t receive one penny for that usage. There are dozens of other examples that can be used here, some benign, some not, but do you want to take that risk with not only your own images, but the images of your children?

What should they do?

Parent Media Group should immediately change their terms of use to state that the images can only be used in the marketing and promotion of the Baby Photo Contest, period. A photo contest should be a photo contest not an endless pool of copyrighted material that they now have unlimited rights to. Anything outsider the realm of the photo contest itself should be compensated fairly. This is very poor business practice and has happened many times in the past and I am sure it will happen again, but for a company like Parent Media Group who appears to want to do good things, they need to step up and do the right thing here.

What should you do?

I encourage you to all write to the Parent Media Group by using their contact form and tell them how wrong that being a copyright troll is and that they should fix their terms of service immediately before people begin to stop reading their publications due to their mishandling of the copyright issues surrounding the baby photo contest.

That’s it for my rant about this particular issue but I do encourage you to be sure and read any terms of service before entering any photo contest.

KerryG

Kerry Garrison lives in Castle Rock, Colorado with his wife and two dogs. With 10 years of experience shooting products and 5 years of experience in the wedding industry, Kerry brings a good deal of technical know-how and can explain topics in easy-to-understand terms.

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25 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    Kerry,
    Well said. I too encourage everyone to let PMG how they feel about their terms via the contact form.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am actually a huge fan of the cutekid contest because I am more concerned that my kid will get noticed and be able to start a career in modeling or acting than I am about copyright issues. I go on the site weekly and most of the pics are amateur so I don't really see what the problem is. Not for nothing, when you go to a professional photographer, dont they also retain rights for being able to use pics of your kids? So whether or not Im snapping pics with my own camera and entering in contests or getting my kids photographed at a studio, those pics can be used for the most part, wherever and whenever. Aside from that fact the cutekid doesnt just give prizes, it promotes getting unique exposure for children, so the TOS isn't out of order considering they are providing promoting your child as a service too. I just thought the other side of the spectrum should be represented here!

  3. udi says:

    Kerry,
    Well said. I too encourage everyone to let PMG how they feel about their terms via the contact form.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The cutekid contest is almost certainly not going to get your child noticed by a modeling agency. You should apply to them if interested in that. As a photographer my general model release allows me to use the model's images for my own marketing or stock images but does not allow me to resell those images to someone else without their permission. So no, I cannot use model's images whenever and wherever.The fact that this is a deceptive practice shows that their only true intention is to get basically free rights to your kid's images. And even if they do plaster your child on a billboard on the freeway, how does that help your child's modeling career as you and your child do not get any credit or compensation. So while some agency may see that, they have no means to contact you.

  5. Jessie says:

    I am actually a huge fan of the cutekid contest because I am more concerned that my kid will get noticed and be able to start a career in modeling or acting than I am about copyright issues. I go on the site weekly and most of the pics are amateur so I don't really see what the problem is. Not for nothing, when you go to a professional photographer, dont they also retain rights for being able to use pics of your kids? So whether or not Im snapping pics with my own camera and entering in contests or getting my kids photographed at a studio, those pics can be used for the most part, wherever and whenever. Aside from that fact the cutekid doesnt just give prizes, it promotes getting unique exposure for children, so the TOS isn't out of order considering they are providing promoting your child as a service too. I just thought the other side of the spectrum should be represented here!

  6. kgarrison says:

    The cutekid contest is almost certainly not going to get your child noticed by a modeling agency. You should apply to them if interested in that.

    As a photographer my general model release allows me to use the model's images for my own marketing or stock images but does not allow me to resell those images to someone else without their permission. So no, I cannot use model's images whenever and wherever.

    The fact that this is a deceptive practice shows that their only true intention is to get basically free rights to your kid's images. And even if they do plaster your child on a billboard on the freeway, how does that help your child's modeling career as you and your child do not get any credit or compensation. So while some agency may see that, they have no means to contact you.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for clearing up the part of the photography for me. However, if you read the contest it is judged by talent and casting agents, so yes the photos will be seen by agents, that is part of the uniqueness of the contest. They also have a section of cutekid successes, kids who were scouted by agents from being in the contest and got roles or ad jobs. Plus, the information is not released about the kid on the website unless they get an approval for that (ex. they get a role/theyre the overall winner for the year or something else extraordinary like that. The kids names are kept anonymous, so there is really no safety issue for your kid other than their face getting out there. And I mean if an agent saw a billboard and really wanted to find the kid I'm sure it wouldn't be hard considering it must be advertising something, so presumably they would start there.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Having been in the industry pretty much my entire life I can assure you that the percentage of kids getting "discovered" through them is going to be virtually zero compared to hiring an agent and going through normal routes. Secondly, it is not a safety issue that concerns me, it is that they are copyright trolls and can use your child's image for anything they want forever whether you win or not. This is so much less about helping kids and it is all about that company collecting as many images as possible to use for their own means WITHOUT helping the kids. So being that your child's photo can be splattered all over the nation on whatever "marketing" material they choose to create without giving you an ounce of credit or compensation is NOT trying to get your child discovered, it is exploitation of the entrants of the contest. If they were really trying to help your child get discovered they would not require that you sign over an unlimited lifetime rights to your child's image so that they could use your image in any way they see fit. instead they would limit usage to the contest only.

  9. Jessie says:

    Thanks for clearing up the part of the photography for me. However, if you read the contest it is judged by talent and casting agents, so yes the photos will be seen by agents, that is part of the uniqueness of the contest. They also have a section of cutekid successes, kids who were scouted by agents from being in the contest and got roles or ad jobs. Plus, the information is not released about the kid on the website unless they get an approval for that (ex. they get a role/theyre the overall winner for the year or something else extraordinary like that. The kids names are kept anonymous, so there is really no safety issue for your kid other than their face getting out there. And I mean if an agent saw a billboard and really wanted to find the kid I'm sure it wouldn't be hard considering it must be advertising something, so presumably they would start there.

  10. kgarrison says:

    Having been in the industry pretty much my entire life I can assure you that the percentage of kids getting “discovered” through them is going to be virtually zero compared to hiring an agent and going through normal routes. Secondly, it is not a safety issue that concerns me, it is that they are copyright trolls and can use your child's image for anything they want forever whether you win or not. This is so much less about helping kids and it is all about that company collecting as many images as possible to use for their own means WITHOUT helping the kids. So being that your child's photo can be splattered all over the nation on whatever “marketing” material they choose to create without giving you an ounce of credit or compensation is NOT trying to get your child discovered, it is exploitation of the entrants of the contest.

    If they were really trying to help your child get discovered they would not require that you sign over an unlimited lifetime rights to your child's image so that they could use your image in any way they see fit. instead they would limit usage to the contest only.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Interesting. The web is filled with contests like this!

  12. Interesting. The web is filled with contests like this!

  13. Anonymous says:

    I come across to such contests all the time and whne listing them, I always poit out the copyright terms.

  14. Andrew says:

    I come across to such contests all the time and whne listing them, I always poit out the copyright terms.

  15. I don't think that there is anything wrong with what the cute kid is doing. just because it is written in fine print doesn't mean that they are being deceiving in any way.

    • anon says:

      completely agree. You are concerned about losing the rights to your image – an image of your child has no monetary value – what are you losing here? Ensure that you only send your images to organizations that share similar values with you (i.e. favor pro choice if that's your stance), and you should not have any issue.

      The typical contest entrant is not a professional photographer who would have used that image elsewhere for profit, nor does the clause prevent them from doing so.

    • anon says:

      completely agree. You are concerned about losing the rights to your image – an image of your child has no monetary value – what are you losing here? Ensure that you only send your images to organizations that share similar values with you (i.e. favor pro choice if that's your stance), and you should not have any issue.

      The typical contest entrant is not a professional photographer who would have used that image elsewhere for profit, nor does the clause prevent them from doing so.

  16. Brenda says:

    RIGHT ON!! I have been warning photographer friends to READ THE FINE PRINT regarding their terms and conditions for photo contests and I can't believe how many people just enter contests without reading the terms! It's simply amazing how many companys are out there doing it! Not only do they want to use your photograph any way they choose but they also want to let everyone download your shot to their phones, ipods and computers and also to be able to sublicense it too!! I'M SO SORRY…..YOU WON'T CATCH ME FALLING FOR IT! I wish others would read the fine print and understand exactly what they are giving up! THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE!!!

  17. RHG says:

    I am a novice photographer and would love to find the legitimate contest. I photograph mostly nature and I will have one of my pictures on a world wide company calendar, but I found out I will not be getting any compensation for the picture that will be used for this 2010 calendar. I really would like to find contests that is legal and honest to their contestants. Does anyone know of any?

  18. kgarrison says:

    Did you check out the current Camera Dojo contest? Check the home page for details. We are giving $200 in prizes.

  19. RHG says:

    I am a novice photographer and would love to find the legitimate contest. I photograph mostly nature and I will have one of my pictures on a world wide company calendar, but I found out I will not be getting any compensation for the picture that will be used for this 2010 calendar. I really would like to find contests that is legal and honest to their contestants. Does anyone know of any?

  20. kgarrison says:

    Did you check out the current Camera Dojo contest? Check the home page for details. We are giving $200 in prizes.

  21. kericarter74 says:

    I have submitted a photo of my youngest to this site and all they did was keep sending me stupid emails. I am upset with the fact also that so many companies advertise in a false pretense. How is someone like myself a stay at home mother supposed to know that we have a talent.LOL

  22. Franky says:

    Every people have rights that should be respected and every image have monetary (and lots more) value that should be paid anyway. I strongly agree with the author of this thread.

  23. Nik says:

    Thanks for the good article pointing out the potential pitfalls of photo contest fine print … it will enlighten many who may not otherwise be aware of the consequences… btw,

    A spell check before publishing may be a good idea also… 🙂

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