Guardian, Lonely Planet, Hewlett Packard ‘photographic opportunity’

Fifteen years ago, when I earned part of my living as a freelance photographer, the going rate for a cover shot on one of the small magazines that I worked for was £200. The magazine sold 12,000 copies each month and that payment gave the publisher the right to publish the image one time only.

£200 was quite a modest payment compared to the amount a photographer might get for a photograph that was used in one of the Sunday colour supplements or a higher-circulation glossy mag.

Jump forward to 2007 and it’s sad to see publishers using competitions as a way of ‘stealing’ a ‘worldwide irrevocable perpetual licence’ in all the images that are submitted by readers. The Guardian and Lonely Planet will be able to publish all the photos that are entered into the competition ‘without limitation’ forever and almost all of those entrants will get neither a prize nor a payment.

It’s an easy, cheap and underhand way for these publishers to build up a free photo library, which they can use in years to come, rather than pay a professional or an ‘amateur’ who appreciates the true value of his or her photography.

Nine runners up will receive a Hewlett Packard Photosmart 4180 digital photograph printer. Whoopy-do, that costs £83 in the shops. I wonder what the cost price is to HP? If your image is chosen as the cover shot, you get a Hewlett Packard Photosmart Pro B9180 printer — £399 in the shops.

‘The winners may be required for promotional activity’. So be prepared to take a day off work for no payment too, before you get your cheap printer!

UPDATE: (10 April 2007) The Guardian tells me that all parties involved in the competition ‘have committed
to only use the entries in connection with the promotion of the competition’. However you have to wonder why that fact isn’t in the published terms and conditions on the website and, as it isn’t, whether you would really have a leg to stand on in the event of any dispute in the future. I’ve had problems in the past with editors who didn’t even want to honour terms that had been agreed between us in writing.


  • Bip Mistry says:

    Since the big businesse’s cottoned on to the value of photographs on the marketplace copyright snatching has become a business in itself. Even the BBC trys to grab rights. People sending in images that are shown on tv for no fee, eg. send in your weather pix… nothing wrong with vanity publishing, or is there? Puts the professional nose out of joint. Citizens should get paid? Hard enough trying to earn a living as a pro photographer!

    Bip Mistry.

  • gary says:

    Must admit, I laughed when the next thing I saw was the headline of an editorial in the same newspaper saying: ‘A moral obligation’.

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