Bill of Rights Introduction

Introduction to the Bill of Rights for Artists' Campaign




Perhaps the best way to start is to explain what the Bill of Rights for Artists is and why it was created. The Bill of Rights is -

  • an ethical set of standards for the protection of your rights in your creative works (e.g. photographs, poems, paintings, music, stories, etc.) when you submit them to competitions, and it was created to -

  • provide the foundation for a campaign to combat the exploitation by private and public sector organisations of your exclusive rights in your creative works.

When you create a work of art, such as a painting, a photograph, music, a story or poem, etc., the law gives you the exclusive right to control how it may be used, published or performed. This right enables you to require payment from other persons or organisations who wish to use, publish or perform any of your works.

For example, if you have ever taken a photograph the instant you take it you are a creator and you have legal rights over its use no matter whether you are a professional photographer or are just a person who has taken a family snap.  The law grants you that right (see note 1), and does so automatically, there are no forms to fill in to assert your rights.

Rights to use works created by you have an economic value regardless of your profession. There are countless organisations world-wide who want to have the rights to use any works created by you. Most don't want to pay you for permission to use them.


Note 1. If a person creates a work of art in the course of their employment it is normally the case that the rights in that work of art are owned by the employer, not by the employee.

Rights Abuse


Rights Abuse

Creative works are constantly required by organisations to promote their businesses and aims. Like all business commodites the value of these rights is subject to negotiation between you and the organisation that wants the rights to use your works.

However, many organisations don't want to pay you for rights to use your work and they will take steps to obtain them from you for nothing. How is is this done? Simply by running a competition, or an appeal. Firstly they ask you to send your creative works, such as photographs, to the competition.

Next they will dangle prizes as carrots to encourage lots of submissions from others. The prizes often cost them nothing having been donated by a sponsor who may have been given the right to share in the spoils of the competition, the spoils being the entrants creative works. Another carrot often dangled is that your work may be published in some magazine or book for example, preying on the natural human desire to see their works being 'promoted'.

The terms and conditions of these competitions or appeals actually form a contract whereby you grant the organisation promoting the competition rights to use your work. Usually the T&C's allow the organisation the right to use your works for ever, to use them in advertising, even to profit from these rights by sub-licensing the rights to use your works to other organisations with no benefit ever being returned to you. It is very unlikely you will even be credited. This practice is often termed "rights grabbing" and its victims are the public.



Exploitation of the Public

Rights grabbing is an unethical practice deployed against a public that, in the main, is unaware of their rights and how they are being exploited. The reason there is so little understanding within the public domain of intellectual property rights and their value is that the state education system gives scant regard to this topic in its curriculum.

Students at school are taught the skills needed to create artworks, through art classes, English lessons for creative writing and many other art related topics. However, they are not taught that they have exclusive rights over the works they create and that they can license use of their works for a negotiated fee, and can control how long the license will last.

It is not surprising then that students leaving the state education system, and consequently the public at large, are often easy prey for organisations who seek to harvest their intellectual property rights without paying for them. We may wonder to what extent this gap in the education system is deliberate policy to suit business interests.

Who are the organisations that do this?  Here are just a few examples -

  • Publishers of newspapers and magazines are in constant need of photographs and run a continual stream of rights grabbing competitions. Often they omit the bother of having a competition and just make an appeal to send your best photos of this or that.

  • The travel industry are very enthusiastic about acquiring your holiday photographs so that they can produce their holiday guides and brochures at least cost. This includes airlines, travel agents, hotel chains, and publishers of travel guides.

  • Governments and local authorities run frequent competitions seeking photographs of everything to do with the area they are responsible for. They use them to produce puff pieces about the great works they do for the public in their newsletters etc., are used by government departments responsible for tourism, or to turn a nice profit on publishing calendars for example.

In order to combat rights grabbing the Bill of Rights for Artists was drafted to set limits on the rights competition organisers can obtain. For example, in a competition they need the rights to display winning works to announce the winners, the rights to use the submitted works to promote the competition (and future competitions) in various media, and the Bill of Rights for Artists sets a time limit on all such rights.

In essence the Bill of Rights for Artists prohibits the granting of any rights to the organiser other than those needed by the organiser to promote the competition.

Campaign Aims


Aims of the Bill of Rights Campaign

The campaign aims are as follows -

  • To provide a means whereby all artists' associations can unite around a common set of standards for preservation of their rights.
  • To promote the Bill of Rights' standards for the preservation of artists' rights in competitions and appeals seeking creative works. (Consideration may be given to widening that remit in future, e.g. to contracts.)
  • To promote organisations who support the Artists' Bill of Rights and to promote their competitions and appeals.
  • To educate the public about the purpose and value of their intellectual property rights and to enable them to recognise when they are being exploited.
  • To publish reports about the extent of rights grabbing and to analyse and quantify the rights grabbed by the private, public, charitable, and non-profit sectors.
  • To press for legislative changes that would protect the public from unfair and unethical terms and conditions that seek to exploit their intellectual property rights.

How the Campaign Works

Using our competition form the public can send us notices about competitions they have discovered.

Most of the notices we receive are about competitions with terms and conditions that fail to comply with the Bill of Rights. So let's step through the process for one such competition.

  1. The sender of the notice states that the competition fails to comply with the Bill of Rights. We check the terms and conditions to confirm this assessment and if it is correct we list the competition on the Competition Notice List. Competitions on this list are not recommended. This list is also used to prepare a detailed rights grabbing analysis showing how rights grabbing is apportioned between the private, public and non profit business sectors, also an analysis of what kind of rights are being grabbed and other related matters.

  2. Next we prepare a detailed 'Rights Off' report for the competition organiser. A Rights Off report details the terms and conditions that fail to comply with the Bill of Rights and what changes the Bill of Rights requires. The report is submitted privately to the organiser.

  3. If there is no response from the organiser within two weeks, or if negotiations with the organiser fail, we publish the Rights Off Report and a link to it appears on the Rights Off List. Competitons on this list are not recommended.

  4. If negotiations succeed and the terms and conditions of the competition are changed we promote the competition on the Rights On List. Competitions on this list are recommended.

Note that steps 2-4 above are subject to resources being available, not all competitions can be fully processed pro-actively in the way that we would wish.

Some competition notices received are about competitions that comply with the Bill of Rights, or are enquiries from a competition organiser. Such notices are given priority.

When writing to competition organisers we always take the opportunity to explain the benefits of becoming a Bill of Rights Supporter.  Bill of Rights Supporters agree not to organise or sponsor competitions unless the terms and conditions comply with the standards set out in the Bill of Rights For Artists.

In our reports we encourage the public to write and complain to organisations that run rights grabbing competitions, and to urge the organisation to become a Bill of Rights Supporrter.

Creative Disciplines


Photography & Other Artistic Disciplines

In the beginning the Bill of Rights was drafted by a photographers' association, Pro-Imaging, to address the problem of rights grabbing in photography competitions. Through contact with other associations it was seen that other disciplines suffer similar abuses of their rights and that the Bill of Rights should also address their concerns.

To be inclusive the Bill of Rights Logo now proclaims "We support the Artists' Bill of Rights" so that it can apply to all creative disciplines.  All the content on the Bill of Rights for Artists website has been reviewed and instead of referring to photographs, or images, we now use the term 'work' or 'works' to refer to the product of any artistic discipline.

Further Information

If you want to know more about rights, how they work and their value you can read our Guide to Rights and Licensing.

If you are an organiser of a competition to which creative works such as photographs, paintings, etc., will be submitted and want to refer to a guide to setting terms and conditions for your competition read our Organisers Guide to the Bill of Rights.  Feel free to contact the Bill of Rights campaign for further information.

The Bill of Rights should be referred to for detailed information about what rights competition terms and conditions can and cannot claim.

Recommended competitions are published on the Rights On List.

Competitions to avoid are published on the Competition Notice List and the Rights Off List.

The Bill of Rights menus at the top of this page provides links to all the Bill of Rights Publications. founded the Artists' Bill of Rights in 2007

Pro-Imaging is a worldwide support group for professional photographers
who are pro-active in defending photographers rights.