Main Menu
Join Undercurrent on Facebook

The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975 | |
For Divers since 1975
The Private, Exclusive Guide for Serious Divers Since 1975
Join Undercurrent on Facebook
"Best of the Web: scuba tips no other
source dares to publish" -- Forbes
August 2010    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 25, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
What's this?

Fair for Photographers?

NAUI wants all rights to your work, free of charge

from the August, 2010 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Underwater photographers are abuzz about NAUIs recent Just Dive photo contest, but not for the reasons you would expect. Photographer Mike Boom from Oakland, CA, told us why. NAUI owns outright any image submitted to them for the contest, whether the image wins or not.

In the contests website (www.naui.org/justdive.aspx) the sixth paragraph reads: Submitting photos constitutes an agreement that the ownership of [sic] transfers to . . . and may be published by NAUI in any media without further compensation. By entering, you give NAUI the perpetual, exclusive rights to use the photo in any way, including but not limited to advertising and promotional use . . . No obligations, financial or otherwise, accrue to the previous owner/submitter of the photo(s) or the people in the photo(s).

Says Boom, Its an old scheme used by organizations too cheap to pay for photos: Hold a contest to get a bunch of free photos and use them for marketing and other for-profit uses. They depend on entrants who are typically too naive to know what theyre giving up . . .NAUI ownership of every photo means not only that NAUI can use your photo for free to market themselves, but that you cant enter that photo in any other contest, whether you win or lose. Although NAUI makes it clear they get ownership of every entry, they dont make it clear what that means and dont intend to.

Why NAUI Wants All Rights

Boom and a few other professional photographers pressed Jed Livingston, NAUIs marketing director, for details. Boom didnt get an answer directly but he did pass on to us Livingstons reply to a letter from Jason Heller, who runs DivePhotoGuide.com. Heller asked Livingston whether NAUI would be granting a license to use the photo. Livingstons reply: No, we are seeking ownership rights. Submitting a photo to the contest for consideration transfers ownership, and the originator is not able to resell or provide the image to another entity without NAUIs written permission.

Heller considers these abusive and overreaching usage rights. Livingston replied, You are entitled to your opinion, however, we are collecting images to exclusively use in future NAUI products and promotions, and we make clear that by submitting a photo you relinquish ownership and any right to future compensation. Livingston wrote that the rules ensure that any image we choose to associate with our brand, winner or not, will not circulate on the Internet, be used in a manner with which we might disagree, or be sold to the highest bidder once the exposure we provide adds value to the image.

“Once we take an image, we don’t want to
see it used by another competitor or in a
marketing campaign we disagree with.”

Heller told Livingston any worthy photographer will not enter if they read the rules, but Livingston replied: There is no attempt to trick anyone into participating, and in the event all worthy photographers choose to not participate, we will continue to operate our contest for those unworthy amateurs who want to try to win a prize or would like to see if their image is worthy enough to appear on a magazine cover or be included in the annual calendar.

Livingston called us to say professional photographers are mostly angry because the wave of cheap, easy-to-use technology is threatening the old way they do business. Its one thing to offer an opinion, quite another to contact the contest sponsors we have relationships with, threaten them and bully them into withdrawing their support thats tortious interference. Weve run this contest for six years and now they complain? Weve had thousands of entries from people who see the rules and agree to participate. And none of our sponsors have pulled out.

He says the reason NAUI uses the all rights clause is to make sure none of the photo entries are used in a way they dont like. Once we take an image, we dont want to see it used by another competitor or see it in a marketing campaign we disagree with. But why all rights for photos that dont win? Its just simpler. Everyone reads the same agreement, we dont have to reiterate anything, and we want to make sure everyone understands what theyre entering. Livingston realizes professional photographers probably wont enter. Some entrants say, I dont send my best images but Ill send my second, third or fourth best. I dont mind giving those away. This is meant to spark an interest in photography, and if an amateur is sparked to become a professional photographer, then good for him.

Amateurs versus Professionals

Clearly, divers who make money selling photos are perturbed, but at least 95 percent of the divers who take a camera underwater would never expect to sell a photo and would just be thrilled to see one published. After all, first place in this contest is a weeks trip on a Blackbeards cruise in the Bahamas, a party boat any serious photographer would never consider. So it looks to us like NAUI is targeting the amateur.

However, for professionals, the problem just isnt the photo contest but what the Internet has wrought by democratizing published writing and photography to the extent that people who have been making a living at it now compete with the world at large - - and its tougher to make a living. Today, anyone can be a published writer or photographer on the Internet. Newspapers like USA Today and the San Francisco Chronicle publish articles by content mills like Demand Media and Associated Content, which provide content by paying rock bottom rates. They pay an average of $15 for a 500-word article, so househusbands with a B.A. in English watching the baby as their full-time job crank out a piece a day for something to do. To the professional writer, this is not peanuts, not even peanut shells, given the hours of researching that goes into an article. Some publications pay nothing - - ads on Craigslist.org offer writers a chance to build up their writing portfolio or get the thrill of seeing their work published. Photographers get the same offers.

Nonetheless, professionals are not happy with NAUI. Totally unbelievable, says Tony Bliss, who runs AquaQuest Publications. One of the problems facing serious underwater photographers is that there are so many amateurs that would do anything to get their photos printed that they give them away. That, of course, reduces the ability of serious professionals to make a living.

Photographer Davis Haas says its not just NAUI doing the all-rights lowballing. I was a consultant at two PADI Total Submersion events and despite nice conversations with PADI employees about how Id like to provide images, they want everything for a pittance. . . . Pay you a lowball amount for a one-time fee and buried [in the fine print] is you signing over practically all rights to your own photos.

“If the goal of the contest is strictly to obtain
free images, that crosses moral and ethical
boundaries in a substantial way.”

Amos Nachoum says, That is just unheard of . . . the good part is that NAUI made their rules public . . . [but] it is sad NAUI has to take such an extreme action to get images to promote the sport. . . . it is their decision and they will have to live with the feedback. . . . as well as with the quality of the images they may receive, which is likely to be very low and amateurish. No semi-pro or professional photographer will touch it.

Bonnie Pelnar, owner of the dive marketing firm Under Watercolours, told us, You dont even have the right to put it on your website or Facebook page. Pelnar contacted NAUI to find out the truth and was told, Weve been doing this for years and no one has complained before. Because were being very upfront about it, someone will come along and be okay with that in order to be featured in a calendar and a magazine.

NAUI also asked Pelnar who it was that sent Livingstons comments to Hellers letter around the Web, because they want to send that person a letter from their attorney. The guy told me, We want to know who is spreading the rumors because we dont want anyone to interfere with our business with our clients.

While this contest seems geared for amateur divers who may make their annual dive trip to the Caribbean and take a few underwater photos but never expect to sell them, Heller says it was amateur photographers who thought the guidelines too strict that alerted him to NAUIs contest. Ive never once seen a contest that demanded ownership of all images. Sure, thousands of divers would love to see their photos used by a professional organization, but your ownership of them should not be handed over to a company for a free liveaboard trip that has a value much less than the value of the ownership of the photo. If the goal of NAUIs contest is to engage the diving community, to take more photos, get in the water and enjoy this sport, thats fine, but I think these are still really abusive guidelines. If the goal of the contest is strictly to obtain free images -- which NAUI has confirmed -- thats a situation that crosses moral and ethical boundaries in a substantial way.

For the average photographer, the NAUI photo contest does sound like a good idea, says Boom. But even an average Joe photographer might get a big sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach if he sees his losing photo used over and over in NAUI promotional materials without a thing in return. It doesnt take being a professional photographer to know when youre being used.

Better Contests to Try

Check out underwater photo clubs and societies, which are typically nonprofit organizations and have more photographer- friendly rules. For instance, the Northern California Underwater Photographic Society states in the rules for its 2010 photo-video competition this month, All persons selecting a prize agree that their image(s) or video may be used by NCUPS for promotion of the club and its competitions in future years. Thats it. No all-rights grab for the end of time. Or consider the Cozumel Photo Shootout (www.cozumelphotoshootout.com) on September 15-19 and sponsored by the Presidente InterContinental Cozumel & Resort and dive shop Scuba Du. Theyre offering $11,000 in cash prizes, and, as per the website, The rights of the images belong to the photographer, [who] will share the rights at no cost with Telefnica Movistar (main sponsor), the organizing committee and the Cozumel Promotion Board.

Boom also recommends contests from the Los Angeles Underwater Photography Society, Beneath the Sea in New York and Our World Underwater in Chicago. Theyve got prizes every bit as good as the big NAUI prize, and in some cases have more and better prizes and better odds. And if you enter and lose one of these contests and you think your photos deserving, you are free to enter it in all the other contests. NAUIs self-serving competition robs competitors of that chance.

Hang onto your rights because theyre all youve got, says Pelnar. You may have put blood, sweat and tears into getting that photo. Is winning a dive trip or a piece of gear really worth giving all of your rights to that away?

Apparently, to those who enter the NAUI photo contest, giving away their rights for a chance to spend a week on a Blackbeards Cruise, five nights in Kosrae, Micronesia, or get three two-tank dives from Stuart Cove in the Bahamas is no big deal, even if they have to pay their own airfare to get there.

- - Vanessa Richardson

I want to get all the stories! Tell me how I can become an Undercurrent Online Member and get online access to all the articles of Undercurrent as well as thousands of first hand reports on dive operations world-wide



NEW! Find in  

| Home | Online Members Area | My Account |
| Travel Index | Dive Gear Index | Health/Safety Index | Environment & Misc. Index | Seasonal Planner | Forums | Blogs | Free Articles | Book Picks | News |
| Dive Resort & Liveaboard Reviews | Featured Reports | Recent Issues | Back Issues | Login | Join | Special Offers | RSS | FAQ | About Us | Contact Us | Links |


Copyright © 1996-2016 Undercurrent (www.undercurrent.org)
3020 Bridgeway, Ste 102, Sausalito, Ca 94965
All rights reserved.

fc