Costco Photo Contest Fails Photographers

Tonight my wife dropped the latest edition of the Costco magazine in my lap, opened to a page talking about the Costco International Photo Contest 2009.  For some reason she still tells me about ever photo contest she finds even thought I usually don’t have the time nor willingness to participate in them.  The willingness part is due to the fact that most Photo Contests are blatant rights grabs for the photos that are submitted.  And the 2009 Costco competition appears to be no better.

From the Official Rules listed in the magazine:

10. Entrant confirms and promises that entry is original and does not infringe on the intellectual property rights of any third party. By participating, entrant agrees that ownership of the entry and all intellectual property rights in the entry is assigned to Costco, and will do all things necessary to give effect to that assignment. Entrant agrees to sign any further documentation require by Costco to give effect to this clause.

So first, Costco wants to makes sure that you are not infringing on someone elses rights and then tells you that they will infringe upon yours!  How very sad that a corporate entity would take advantage of it’s customers like that.

The Costco photo contents doesn’t pass The Bill of Rights for Photography Competition sniff test.

When I went to the website for the competition, I noticed that the rules listed there are different and seem to be missing this statement, with no reference to the statement ever being there.  So which set of rules apply?  Typically the ones on the website, but in this case it’s too ambiguous to tell since I’m no lawyer.  With all this ambiguity in the rules, there is no way I would participate in this contest nor suggest any photographer participate.

Photographers beware…

18 thoughts

  1. Omg, seriously?? I already entered :(. So does that mean they are going to steal my photo and take credit for it or something?

    [Reply]

    latoga Reply:

    Shelby, if the original version of the contest terms and conditions were still in affect when you entered your photo Costco didn’t steal it, but you did give them all intellectual property rights to the photo. That means that Costco could do anything they wanted with the photo (including in theory, sell it) and not have to pay you anything.

    Now, when I double checked with the online version of the terms and conditions, the wording that I highlighted was not included. So, I’m not sure if they corrected the terms and conditions, or what. From my perspective, any company that publishes any T&C that takes away my rights lost all of my trust.

    [Reply]

    Ernie Larsen Reply:

    @Shelby,
    Just checked the online rules – same as in the magazine – all entries become property of COSTCO and you have to assign rights to them.
    NO THANKS!

    [Reply]

  2. Being an amateur, it’s frustrating simply trying for recognition & some public exposure. These contests do offer some sort of avenue for the “little guy”. I can understand the hesitation to enter. However, with SO many “pro-amateur’s” out in this world, where do you suggest we start?

    [Reply]

    latoga Reply:

    Jewel,

    The silver rule is “exposure, exposure, exposure”. Only to be trumped by the golden rule of “don’t give away your gold”. If you ever have a desire to earn money from your photography, the leason to be learned early is to not give away the intellectual property rights of your photos. (I had this same discussion with a professional architecture photographer early today…).

    There are Photo Contests out there that do honor the photographer’s rights. The normal expectation is that the photo contest can use your photo to publicize the photo contest with no payment due to you, but trying to steal your rights to payment for any other use of your photo is simply robbery.

    The key is to pay attention to the rights usage of any photo contest. If they are abusive, don’t enter AND raise a stick about it with the people running the photo contest. If no one tells them that what they are doing is wrong, they will just continue to abuse photographers in general.

    [Reply]

  3. I just found out my sister entered this, being completely unaware that she was giving up her rights to the photo. If she calls Costco and tells them she wants her entry pulled out, will she retain her rights?

    [Reply]

  4. I encourage you all to write to Costco’s magazine and let them know your feelings. A few months ago, I wrote the editor and explained how restrictive the contest rules were. He was a very nice guy and said that they will probably change the rules for next year’s contest based on my input. You should all do the same. Costco is a good company and they want to do what’s best in most cases.

    [Reply]

  5. I won third price last year and have had no problems. I have been able to do what I wanted with my photo, Costco didn’t use it except for putting it in the Costco Magazine. I bet they just copied the condition from some other photo competition without paying much attention to that particular part. Either way, I trust Costco to do the right thing.

    [Reply]

  6. Hey Greg, my name is carlos rubin and i winned the International Grand Prize of the costco cotest of this year with the costo account of my brother francisco Rubin, he already signed the papers of the rights assignment, what should i do?

    [Reply]

    latoga Reply:

    @Rubin Z., Congratulations on winning the contest! Let me know when the winning photo is posted to the photo contest site. You have some amazing photos on your website, I especially liked your wildlife images.

    Unfortunately, at this point there might not be much that you can do. Especially if you have been contacted as the winner and had to sign something at that point. I would review the document that you (or your brother) signed to see if it contains the same wording about giving up the rights to the photo. About all you could do at this point is to contact Costco and let them know you are concerned about your rights to the photo. See what they have to say…

    [Reply]

    Rubin Z. Reply:

    @latoga, thanks for the advice greg i’m going to do that, or maybe my brother “because the photo is under his name” :-(.

    Cheers, Carlos Rubin.

    [Reply]

    latoga Reply:

    @Rubin Z., Ouch, you’re not even going to get your name out there as the winner? Sorry to hear that.

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