Photo Garb Of Rights Grab

Photo by Md Iftekhar Uddin Emon

Photo Garb Of Rights Grab

Terms and conditions that we are made to agree upon when entering our photographs to popular organisations, contests, apps and platforms are silent rights grabbing mafia.

Or maybe not.

That 20 page something long terms and conditions user agreement written in finely constructed long legal sentences in tiny fonts very truthfully tells you what you are exactly signing up for.

It just happens that no one will actually read it. Especially a newbie photographer, possibly a new artist trying to make a mark through his work in an already saturated field.

And even if they read it, is there any way to not entirely agree to the terms and conditions. It is just a formality anyway. In the sheer excitement, ambition and eternal hope to make it big somehow the photo maker has no choice but to agree or remain hidden in obscurity.

So they tell you what they are doing but there is no negotiation. Agree or stay away from our rules. The ‘my way or the highway’ policy of rights are so confusing with points and sub-points of legalities that you are just relieved somehow that you make it to a mostly white dominated field.

This is a classic example of how photo makers actually aid in running the rights grab of monopolistic organisations that continue doing the same thing each year.While we go along with these generic user terms and conditions and accept everything, are these really fair? Do we really want to agree to an already predefined set of terms without any way of negotiation?

What is Agreement?

Technically in legal terms the ‘basic elements’ required for the agreement to be a legally enforceable contract are: mutual assent, expressed by a valid offer and acceptance; adequate consideration; capacity; and legality. In some states, element of consideration can be satisfied by a valid substitute.

A concord of understanding and intention, between two or more parties, with respect to the effect upon their relative rights and duties, of certain past or future facts or performances. The act of two or more persons, who unite in expressing a mutual and common purpose, with the view of altering their rights and obligations. The writing or instrument which is evidence of an agreement.

The basic crux of any agreement is mutual assent. In these generic ‘ user agreements’ there is never any scope of negotiation or alteration of any points that you may not be comfortable with. There is never any scope of any dialogue or alteration whatsoever and often no consideration or very little monetary compensation is given (if at all). In essence it is not even a valid agreement ab initio.

If this is not a blatant abuse of legalities and position then what is?

Whose Right is it anyway?

In a real case scenario the most beloved and widely respected popular brand Natgeo ‘does not claim any ownership rights, including copyrights’.

However, in the very same paragraph there is an irrevocable (?!!), fully paid and royalty free (unethical and ultra vires any constitution to give away the right to royalty which is in perpetuity with all authors) acquisition of all proprietary and artistic rights to use, modify and distribute everything submitted to them.


So basically the long sentence in short is that you sign off all your rights forever while they continue to grab freely from an unlimited pool of photo makers while you just be thankful that you even got a chance to be ‘featured’ in such a reputed ‘brand’.

This is just one case. There are umpteen contests, magazines, apps and brands that grab rights and make individual profits from works of artists.

Artists are not legal experts. So they are vulnerable. They have to fend for themselves and are an easy prey. They have no choice.

Or do they?

It is time to understand that ownership and authorship of your work is not to be fed to a multi-million dollar industry that feeds on your helplessness.

You are not helpless. You have a right to negotiate and refuse. If you allow exploitation, it shall continue. Things will change only if you question them.

You have a right to not let anyone exploit you. All artists have to be aware of the choices and move towards a no-grab of Rights Policy.

In the meanwhile all legal luminaries and heads of these conglomerates could probably revise ethics and community welfare and not misuse their education and learning to exploit others.


Author- Adv. Lubna Yusuf





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