PhotoWatchDog goes for a walk

Queensland commercial photographer, William Long, has closed the PhotoWatchDog Facebook page, a platform he used to review photo contest Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) and campaign for fairer rights for photographers.

Commercial photographer, William Long, AKA PhotoWatchDog.

While closing the 12-year old Facebook page is a partial shut down of PhotoWatchDog, William says he’ll continue to provide free advice to contest organisers.

William officially launched PhotoWatchDog 18 years ago, after noticing a growing trend of rights-grabbing clauses weaved into contest T&Cs. (Fun fact: An 18-year old medium-sized dog is roughly 96 human years old!)

Photo contests became a cheap avenue for some organisations to collect images or generate revenue, without appropriately compensating the creator. A rights-grabbing clause would typically force the creator to surrender their copyright and grant the organiser, and any affiliates, a royalty-free, worldwide, and perpetual license, sub-licensable to any third party.

As few entrants read through long and complex T&Cs, many unknowingly supplied a company or organisation with material they wouldn’t otherwise grant. And not just images.

‘A new point of concern is that there is often little genuine interest in the images, but more importance is placed on the acquisition of personal information, an increasing valuable commodity,’ William writes. ‘Not only do entrants agree to give the organiser their personal details, but the online “voting” (winners selected through an online public poll) also requires that voters also agree to submit to similar T&Cs, which allow the “competition” organisers to collect, use and trade that information.’

While some organisers are in it for the rights-grab, William found the majority of people he dealt with are unaware of nasty T&Cs, or weren’t in it for cheap marketing material or data mining.

William’s two decade journey has resulted in more success than failure, he says. Hundreds of photo contest organisers have amended potentially harmful T&Cs to become fairer to entrants and organisers; and some now seek his advice when developing a contract.

He poured countless hours into this free service, and occasionally fought a few battles.

‘In most cases, a presumption is made by the entrant that the organiser wouldn’t do anything that is so blatantly unfair,’ William writes. ‘On the positive side, I often accomplish significant changes in attitude and approach by discreet communication between competition organisers. And it’s extremely heartening when major companies like Canon, Nikon, Fuji and many others now contact me prior to agreeing on a set of T&C’s for their competitions, as they are eager to produce something that is going to be an effective marketing tool, as opposed to something that has a negative effect on their corporate image.’

Good dog!

The PhotoWatchDog Facebook page served as a platform for concerned photographers to report dubious contest terms. William would investigate, and attempt to have the terms amended. He would then routinely post reports on the page to either warn photographers about the ‘aPAWling’ (get it?) terms, or endorse the contest for having fair terms.

William says photographers are now more careful when ticking the T&Cs box and entering contests. The Facebook page naturally quietened down.

However, he has received several requests recently from individuals misusing PhotoWatchDog’s services, by attempting to have William fight battles beyond the scope of photo contests. He’s found this time-consuming, and at times a thankless task that serves to only benefit the person involved.

William says by shutting down the Facebook page, he will lessen his involvement in advocating for fairer photo contest contracts. However, contest organisers are welcome to seek his advice.

He offers three crucial points to photographers, brands, and contest sponsors:
1. Before you enter a competition, READ the Terms and Conditions.
2. Before you support by way of sponsoring, or providing prizes to, a competition, READ the Terms and Conditions.
3. Before you support, by way of judging a competition, READ the Terms and Conditions.

PhotoWatchDog will remain an active tab on William’s business website, Click here to read more.

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