Blogger challenge terms and conditions – don’t sign the rights to your work away!

MikeBlogsUpdated on 14 October by Jeanne Horak-Druiff

THE ONE-LINE SUMMARY

Be sure to read the fine print when you are invited to submit a recipe to participate in blogger “recipe challenges” – increasingly, terms are being hidden in the fine-print that strip you of your ownership rights over your photo and recipe purely by entering the challenge.

THE BACKGROUND

Copyright is the right of the creator of an artistic work (a book, a film, an essay, a photograph, a painting etc) to be identified as the author, and (where applicable) to profit from the sale of such work. Unlike patents and trademarks, you do not need to do anything to register your copyright – merely putting your creative idea down in concrete form (on paper or online) is enough to vest copyright in the author. Adding the words “Copyright 2013 Joe Bloggs” merely assist in proving your rights. One of the exceptions to this general rule is where you are commissioned to create something e.g. for an employer – say, for example, that you are a graphic designer and you are commissioned to create a poster for a client. In this case, the copyright will vest in your employer/client – but in return you are paid for this (salary or per commission). Nobody but the very rich or the very silly will give away their copyright for free, surely? And even when the right to copy and re-use the image vests in a client, you as the creator usually still retain the moral rights (i.e. the right to be identified as the creator of the work), even if you are not entitled to profit from future re-use of the creative work.

THE PROBLEM

We are all familiar with the trend for brands and agencies to create blogger “recipe challenges”. Bloggers are mailed and asked to enter a challenge usually using a client’s products and then entering this recipe (and often also a photo) into a recipe challenge to compete with recipes submitted by other bloggers, either on your own site or on the brand’s site. These competitions always come with terms and conditions of entry which range from the mundane (entrants must be over 18; entrants must reside in the UK; only original recipes may be used etc) to the winner-specific (judges’ decision will be final; prize cannot be exchanged for cash; winner must be prepared to be photographed; winner’s recipe will be reproduced on brand’s website etc.).
But recently I have noticed a rather alarming trend. I received a couple of these blogger challenge e-mails where some basic conditions of entry (deadline, prizes etc) were listed in the e-mail body, but full terms and conditions were accessed by clicking a small “click here for full terms and conditions attached” link in the e-mail. Now I am a lawyer by training and a small-print freak, but how many of us would click through to this? I did click through to the full terms and tucked away quietly at the bottom of those was this gem(bold text is mine, not original):

Any material created as part of the above promotion shall be owned by the Promoter and entrants grant the Promoter and the Promoter’s group of companies a perpetual, irrevocable, fully paid up, royalty free, worldwide licence to use the material or any part thereof for any purpose in any media, (including print and online). This includes the right to make changes to the material. Entrants irrevocably waive their moral rights in the material to the greatest extend permitted by law.”

So not only are they proposing that bloggers create text and visual content for their company’s social media channels for free, they are also saying that merely by entering their competition, ALL ENTRANTS (not only winners) are completely giving up all intellectual property rights (copyright) to their text and photos. This means that once you enter, the company can do exactly what they want with your recipes and images, including alter them or attribute them to somebody else. They do not ever have to even mention you as the creator (that’s what the final sentence means). And if YOU put the text and images that you created up on your own website, they can in effect accuse YOU of infringing THEIR copyright.

WHAT SHOULD BLOGGERS DO

It would appear that as PRs and brands are getting wise to bloggers being protective of their work and (quite rightly) requesting fair payment for the content that they create. It also seems that brands and PRs are increasingly going to look for alternative ways to obtain free content from bloggers – which may include hiding fundamental terms like this in the small print. Everyone knows that very few people read the small print beyond the closing date! It is ALWAYS worth reading through every word in a competition’s T&Cs to make sure that you retain rights or at least receive adequate compensation for your creative work. Any brand that approaches you obviously sees value in the content you create and in your audience, but if they are not willing to compensate you for that value they are not worth working with.
Written by Jeanne Horak-Druiff, Cook Sister

Photo: Flickr/MikeBlog

 

Post By Jeanne Horak-Druiff (5 Posts)

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