Adobe, Billie Eilish, and Copyright: Why You Should Always Read the Fine Print

As creatives, we are often focused on just that: creating works that help us relate to ourselves, others, or the world around us. Unfortunately for some, this means that creating precedence over some other tasks.

A Business of Copyright

A photography business is a business. You have to know how to run a business, which includes handling financial and administrative tasks inherent to that. Especially earlier in your career, before you have a network of people helping you, this means wearing many hats.

One such area of ​​focus is knowing at least the basics of copyright law on a national and international level. Of course, this is a huge task, and often, lawyers specialize in just copyright law, but knowing the basics of who owns what is important. In Australia, for example, the creator of a work owns the work. This means that any image I create, own, and can profit from if I have the proper releases, such as a model release or a property release if a certain model or location is apparent in the image. These rules also diverging for commercial and artistic usage.

My takeaway point here is to know at least the basics of what you own and why owning your images is important.

The Make the Merch Contest

Adobe is often supportive of creatives and usually does a pretty good job of providing resources and opportunities for creatives. Entering your work into contests is a great way to get seen by the right people; I’ve personally benefited from entering state and national level contests. Showing your work at some of these galleries has led to sales, as well as other opportunities for me and you might get benefit from it too.

But I was very disappointed by Adobe’s recent contest rules. Even if you win first place, the pinnacle prize for which is $10,000, you give up copyright. This might be alright for some folks, but you also give up copyright if you lose.

Use of Entries: For the avoidance of doubt, Sponsor shall own all right, title and interest in and to the Grand and First Prize winning Entries. Each entrant (unless the Grand Prize or a First winner) retains ownership of their Entry. Each entrant hereby grants to Sponsor, Billie Eilish, and their affiliated companies and designated agents a non-exclusive, transferable, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty free, unconditional, fully paid license and right to post and to make, have made, use, copy , reproduce, modify, and create derivative works of any materials provided by the entrant with the entrant’s Entry or otherwise through the Contest (“Contest Materials”), (b) to publicly perform or display, import, broadcast or transmit, distribute (directly and indirectly) license, offer to sell and sell, rent, lease, or lend copies of the materials (and derivative works thereof) and use for any lawful purposes, including for purposes of advertising and trade, and (c) to sublicense to third parties the foregoing rights, including the right to sublicense to further third parties. This license expressly includes a right (but not the obligations) for Sponsor to modify Entries to remove any third party intellectual property. Additionally, each entrant consents to the use of the name, statements, photographs, videos, voice recordings and likenesses of themselves appearing in the Contest Materials for publicity purposes, as well as any other purpose associated with the Contest.

Once an Entry is entered into the Contest, any such posting will be deemed made at the direction of the entrant within the meaning of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Communications Decency Act. EACH ENTRANT REPRESENTS, UNDERSTANDS AND ACKNOWLEDGES THAT THEY WILL NOT BE PAID FOR OR RECEIVE ANY FORM OF COMPENSATION OR ROYALTY (OTHER THAN THE PRIZES STATED HEREIN IF SELECTED AS A WINNER) SPON SEEN ANY FORM OF COMPENSATION OR ROYALTY (OTHER THAN THE PRIZES STATED HEREIN IF SELECTED AS A WINNER) SPON SE EXOR CLUS EXOR EX USE OF SUCH ENTRY BY SPONSOR. If requested, the entrant will sign any documentation that may be required for Sponsor or its designees to make use of the non-exclusive rights entrant is granting to use the Entry.

This is bad because it means that you lose out on benefiting from your hard work in any real way. If you win, you lose, and if you lose, then you lose.

I’m not jaded enough, or maybe I am, but I realize Billie Eilish didn’t sit there and write these rules. But they were not written by someone who had the best interests of contributing creatives in mind. What hurts most is having something like this happen two years into a pandemic when creatives are struggling most.

My intention isn’t to attack Eilish, her team, or even Adobe but to rather highlight that these competition rules are indeed problematic. Hopefully, in some small way, those considering entering will reconsider. Or perhaps in a big way, I hope this article will convince organizers to amend contest rules in favor of creatives.

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