Just Say No To Copyright Grabs

, None

by · Posted in: photography business

The MGM Grand—the largest hotel-resort complex in the United States and the third largest hotel in the world—has been renovating. The ambitious project includes updates to the casino floor, guest rooms, dining and much more. It sounds like an expensive project, but since the MGM Grand is owned by MGM Resorts International, the second largest gaming company in the world with 2009 revenues of about $6 billion, it’s safe to assume that they’re good for it.

This is why it’s so surprising that they, in collaboration with Graphistudio, are using a rights-grabbing photo contest to obtain images of their new renovations. In exchange for a chance to win a few prizes the MGM Grand is asking entrants to give up all rights to the images:

4. Work For Hire: Entrant authorizes MGM Grand Hotel, LLC and its authorized parties to reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of the entry (along with a name credit). MGM Grand Hotel, LLC, will have exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, transferable rights and license privileges to use and reproduce in any manner and in any all distribution channels. Entrant further agrees, upon MGM Grand Hotel, LLC’s request and without additional compensation, to sign any and all necessary and appropriate documents, including but not limited to a Work for Hire Agreement.

This agreement doesn’t just apply to the winners, but to everyone who enters. Yes, you heard that right—by entering this contest you give MGM Grand the exclusive license to the work. According to this agreement you can’t even use the photo yourself. It’s all theirs whether you win or not. And don’t think you can just send in old vacation shots—they need you to photograph specific locations on specific dates. In other words they’ve scheduled a shoot for you.

Work for Hire

If you don’t spend much time dealing with copyright, the term ‘Work for Hire’ might not mean much to you. In the United States when you produce a creative work you are automatically recognized as the author and receive copyright protection for that work unless you enter a contract agreeing to something else. There is an exception, however, when you, as part of your normal duties, create something as an employee (as opposed to a freelancer or independent contractor). In this case the employer is the default owner of the copyright. If you are a staff designer at a magazine, the copyright for the designs you create belong to the magazine. The same is true for staff writers at newspapers and developers at software companies. This is called ‘Work for Hire’ and it’s something most people accept as the part of being an employee with a salary, benefits, and job security. But it is often inappropriately forced on freelancers negotiating for work and it is ridiculous for a contest.

All the parties involved in a scheme like this should be ashamed. This is especially true of the photographers, Yervant and Henk van Kooten who agreed to judge the competition. They should be deeply aware of the constant battle photographers fight to retain rights to their work and should shun any attempt to strip them of these rights, especially for no compensation other than a chance to win a contest.

This has been said a lot, but please, read the fine print, avoid this kind of image collection scheme, and tell those involved that this is not an acceptable way for large corporations to obtain photography.