We commissioned a poet, Bryan Islip, to compose a poem for us that expresses in a way that only poets can, our contempt for right grabbing terms and conditions that seek creative works such as photographs, stories, poetry, music, videos, designs, etc from the public. We are delighted with this very expressive work and wish to thank Bryan Islip publicly, who as a creator himself has the greatest sympathy with our cause.
If you can keep your heart when all about you
Have lost their titles to some small print t's and c's,
If you can trust the law when lawyers doubt you,
But make allowance for their fat cat pleas;
If you submit and not be beat, submitting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being used but don't give way to users
Nor argue much, nor talk too wise:
If you submit your work and lose its virtue,
But always try to show the honest touch,
If those big businessmen can't hurt you,
Though all men count with you, and truth as such;
If you can let them take your stuff and own it
Throughout the universe and just for fun
You lose the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a fool, my son!
The poem was originally written as a response to the 'I Am Buried' competition launched by Corbis in August 2007. Entrants were to submit their works to the competition the rules of which claimed all rights from them, forever, and throughout the universe.
A photographers organisation, Pro-Imaging, was so concerned at the greed embedded in the terms and conditions of this competition that they decided there and then to build a campaign for artists' rights. The campaign would list those who sponsor rights grabbing competitions and promote organisations who don't.
Listed below is an extract from the Corbis terms and conditions, these are the terms and conditions that acted as the catalyst for the Bill of Rights for Artists' campaign.
(By submitting you agree to)...exclusively and irrevocably assign, convey and transfer to Sponsor any and all right, title and interest in the Submission, including the copyright, right of publicity, moral rights and any ideas included in the Submission...this assignment shall give Sponsor sole ownership over your Submission and ... shall have the right to transfer or assign any part or all of the Submission, without limitation....have the right to edit, adapt and publish any or all of the Submission, and may use it in any media including, without limitation any new technologies that are yet to be developed, without attribution or compensation to the entrant, his/her successors or assigns, or any other entity. Further, this assignment shall give Sponsor the right to use the Submission in perpetuity and throughout the universe without further consideration. If you do not want to assign such rights to Sponsor, you should not participate in this Contest".
Following a vast number of complaints from people about the above terms and conditions Corbis unleashed a spokesman to put out the fire. This is what the Corbis spokesman said;
"The rules of the Corbis "I am Buried" promotion are standard and consistent with other online contests. As a company representing intellectual property, we work to carefully respect images, video, essays, ideas and other intellectual property.
The content submitted as part of "I am Buried" will be used only for the purposes of judging and supporting marketing to promote the contest, and for no other purpose.
Participants do not have to submit their own images; they can select representative examples from the Corbis site.
Corbis requires the representations and warranties to make sure that the content that is submitted is original, and not taken from another company or artist."
So now we know, the Corbis rules are standard and consistent with other online contests, and so the Corbis spokesman has just confirmed what the problem is, that rights grabbing terms and conditions are endemic.
Next, the Corbis spokesperson goes on to say that they require "the representations and warranties to make sure that the content that is submitted is original". This is a nonsense statement. It is not necessary to demand that entrants "transfer all right, title and interest in the submission" to ensure originality and that they are not infringing others work.
All that was needed was a statement in the terms and conditions something like this "You agree that the work you submit is your own original work" which all entrants are required to accept. It is bizarre to say the least that an organisation such as Corbis, with access to its own considerable in-house legal expertise, could have drafted such all encompassing terms and conditions simply to ensure entrants submitted their own work and not somebody else's. It suggests the legal people who drafted these terms and conditions should take a refresher course in intellectual property law, and common sense!
In a conversation about this contest with the Corbis Director of Communications he happened to say "You know what it's like when you get a bunch of lawyers in a room". If we didn't before, we certainly do now!