Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights for Artists

The Beginning


In the Beginning

If you are unfamiliar with the meaning of terms such as rights, copyright, intellectual property, and moral rights you will find it helpful to read the Introduction to the Bill of Rights followed by the Guide to Rights and Licensing before reading the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights for Artists campaign was devised towards the end of 2007 and launched in March 2008. It is a response to those competitions and appeals seeking creative works such as photos, music, literary works, video, paintings, etc. in which the intent of the competition or appeal is to harvest unlimited usage rights, or even the copyright, of the works submitted by the entrant.

This practice is commonly known as rights grabbing, it is unethical and does not reflect well on organisations who deploy it. However, it works because most people are quite unaware that they have intellectual property rights, that they have a considerable value, or even that they are being exploited. One of the aims of this campaign is to provide information to the public about the importance and potential value of their intellectual property rights.

The World Intellectual Property Organization defines the purpose of copyright and related rights as follows-

"The purpose of copyright and related rights is twofold: to encourage a dynamic creative culture, while returning value to creators so that they can lead a dignified economic existence, and to provide widespread, affordable access to content for the public."

Rights grabbing seeks to take advantage of a dynamic creative culture without returning value to creators and therefore the practice of rights grabbing is unethical.

We believe that the spirit of the law should be respected for everyone. Therefore in 2007 we set out to devise a set of principles that contest organisers could use to draft contest rules that would respect the creator’s rights. These principles would allow the organiser to use the works to promote the competition or contest, the works, and the creator, and certain usages to defray costs or create profit, all time limited so that when the time period expired the creator had full and exclusive rights to their images returned to them.

We call this set of principles the Artists' Bill of Rights. During their development discussion took place with representative associations and competition organisers. This extensive liaison took place to ensure the creation of a set of workable and practical principles that at the same time prevented exploitation of the entrants by respecting both their rights and their creativity.

Later in this section you will find a complete listing of the conditions set out in the Bill of Rights. How the Artists' Bill of Rights campaign works in practice is described in Introduction to the Bill of Rights.

Appeals for Creative Works by Organisations

There are businesses which appeal for creative works to be submitted to them in order that they may exploit them some way, say by using them to promote the organisation, its products and services, or by publishing them in a book for example. There are no prizes involved nor any negotiated remuneration on offer to those who supply the works.  Instead, the organisers will claim that their use of the works will provide the people who created them free publicity and it will help them to get 'noticed'. In some cases those responding to the appeal are actually asked to pay a fee to have their work included in a book.

This is exploitation of those who submit works in response to the appeal, and although not a contest the practice is still subject to the Bill of Rights. It is viewed as a contest with no prizes and will simply be judged according to the Bill of Rights for Artists principles.

Competitions Hosted on Social Networks

We are unable to recommend any competition which requires entrants to upload their submissions through social networks such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Flickr, etc., etc. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the practice of such services to remove copyright information from works uploaded to and reproduced on these services.

There are also issues concerning the terms and conditions of these services in that they claim extensive usage rights over the entrants uploaded works in excess of that permitted by the Artists' Bill of Rights. Our advice is that you should not enter  competitions requiring you to upload your submissions via social networks of photo sharing websites. More information is given in our Competitions and Social Networks Guide.



Arrangements for Charities

Charities frequently organise contests, seeking photos typically but also other works such as music or video, as a way of promoting their cause and also as a way of obtaining resources to further the charity's aims. Often charities claim via the terms and conditions permanent and irrevocable usage rights to the works entrants submit to the contest. Charity or not this practice of simply claiming via the small print extensive usage rights for entering the contest is still looked on as a rights grab.

On the other hand charities have aims that many people will have sympathy with and there should be some provision in the Bill of Rights for Artists that recognises the special status of charities. Charities are generally resourced on the basis of voluntary donations by willing members of the public who support the charity's aims. It is the principle of voluntary donation that we have adopted to enable charities the potential of acquiring rights in excess of those set out in the Bill of Rights.

Rules for competitions organised by charities would still adhere to all the standards set out in the Bill of Rights. However, a charity can add a special 'donate' section on the entry form which would detail to the entrant the additional rights the charity would like donated to them. This procedure will operate on an opt-in basis, thus the entrant will need to say they are willing to donate the additional rights requested by ticking a check box or other similar action. Entrants not donating these additional rights would still be eligible to win prizes.

This principle of additional rights being given to the charity on the basis of voluntary donation not only respects the rights of the entrants to the contest, it is simply an extension of the basis upon which charities raise funds by appeals to the public, in this case the appeal is not for funds but for valuable intellectual property rights.

Entrants who would like to enter the contest but not donate additional rights to the charity can do so. In such a case the charity would only be granted the rights set out in the rules, which would comply with the Artists' Bill of Rights, but it should be noted that these rights will still enable the charity to promote the charities aims by publishing a book for example.

The 'donate' procedure enables charities to obtain any usage rights for as long as they want for any usage with the exception of copyright, waiving of moral rights, and exclusive usage.

Winners Archive


Competition Winners Archive

Some competitions have a winner's archive where they can display/perform the winning works of previous instances of that competition, and in long running contests this archive can go back decades. They act as a roll call of honour and can be seen as conferring prestige on both the contest and those listed as previous winners.

The Bill of Rights requires a time limit to be set on usage of contest entrant's works and this provision, if unqualified, would not permit the creation of a Competition Winners Archive. Therefore the Bill of Rights makes a provision for the creation and maintenance of a Competition Winner's Archive subject to the following conditions.

  1. The archived works originate from a specific competition that runs annually, or the archived works originate from a continuous ongoing competition that runs at regular intervals such as weekly or monthly.  That is archives cannot be built from a series of unrelated contests.

  2. The archive works can only be displayed or published to promote the contest and no other purpose.

  3. The archive works will always be credited.

  4. Only winner's works will be archived, where winners can include honourable mentions or shortlisted works.

  5. Where a contest wishes to use one of the archive works within an Artists' Bill of Rights allowed products, such as a competition book, then that usage will still be subject to the maximum time limit set out in the Bill of Rights, i.e. within 3 years at most of the winners being announced for the contest the work was submitted to.

This provision has been added to the Bill of Rights in order that honourable contests that respected artists' rights would not fail the Bill of Rights simply because they maintained a competition winner's archive.

Bill of Rights Principles


The Artists' Bill of Rights Principles

Copyright & Moral Rights

  1. Entrants will retain copyright and moral rights in their works. Terms and conditions of competitions must not require entrants to assign their copyright to another party, nor must it be a condition of entry that the entrants moral rights be waived.

  2. Moral rights are to be respected, i.e. the rules should state that works used will always be credited to the entrant, that credit taking the usual form of the copyright notice, e.g. © year name

  3. If at any stage of a competition an entrant may be asked to sign one or more documents to remain in the contest or to be eligible for a prize, replicas of such documents, or at least full details of the rights they require the entrant to grant, must be displayed on the competition website terms and conditions page.

  4. Any rights metadata present in works submitted to a contest will not be removed, altered, or added to by the contest organisers or sponsors. It shall not be a requirement of the contest rules that entrants are to remove metadata prior to submitting works to a contest.

Limited Free Usage

  1. The sponsors/organiser will only acquire limited usage rights for works submitted to a competition. Limited usage rights means they must be non-exclusive, and usage is restricted solely to promoting the specific competition the works were submitted to, or future competitions where that competition is a recurring one, and no other purpose. This is termed "limited free usage".

  2. Winning and shortlisted works can be used to promote the competition in perpetuity subject to the conditions set out on the Bill of Rights page dealing with competition winner's archives.

  3. Non-winning and non-shortlisted images can be used to promote the competition, and no other purpose, subject to a time limit not exceeding (3) three years following the announcement of the winning entries for the competition the non-winning and non-shortlisted entries were submitted to.

  4. Limited Free Usage includes the production of a competition book and calendar for a contest displaying works entered to one specific contest, along with a credit for each work published in the book and calendar, as long as it meets the (3) three year limit for a final production run as stated in item 3 above and as referred to, again, in the competition winner's archives.

  5. Limited Free Usage includes the production of competition merchandise, namely posters and cards promoting the competition providing they are fully credited and meet the (3) three year limit for final production run as stated in item 3 above for non-winning works and as referred to in the competition winner's archives for winners.

  6. Competition rules which do not state that the works will be used to solely and exclusively promote the competition will be deemed to be using the works for other purposes, and such other purposes will be deemed commercial usage.

  7. There must be a clear statement of the manner in which the submitted entries will be used by the organiser and sponsors. Competitions which have no statements about how works will be used, or statements which are unclear about the extent of usage will be deemed to have failed this condition.

  8. Entrant's works to be displayed on web sites shall have a longest side not exceeding 1024 pixels.

  9. Note that charities and other non-profit organisations can obtain additional rights providing they adopt the donation principle described on the Artists' Bill of Rights page dealing with arrangements for Charities.

Commercial Usage

  1. Excepting the above allowable provisions under Free Usage above, any other usages will be deemed to be commercial usage.

  2. For the purposes of clarification any usage that is not directly, solely, and exclusively related to promoting the competition will be deemed commercial usage.

  3. If it is the intent of the organiser or sponsor that they may approach an entrant with a request for commercial usage of an entrants work the rules should make clear that the entrant will be free to agree or decline terms and that such usage negotiation will be independent of the competition.


  1. It is recommended that competitions provide brief biographical information about the judges who will judge the contest. Where for the purposes of avoiding any attempt to influence the judges the current years judges will be anonymous, there could be brief details of the judges used in previous contests. Where it is the first year of a contest and thus it is clearly not possible to name last year's judges, it is recommended that a statement saying that details of the judges will be announced when the competition winners are announced.

  2. Competitions should list all organisations granted usage rights to submitted works directly resulting from each organisation's association with the competition as a supporter, sponsor, partner, etc.

End Date within 16 months of Start

  1. The competition must have a specified date on which prizes will be awarded, and that date must not be more than 16 months beyond the date upon which the competition details are first made public. This condition is to prevent free usage for submitted works extending over years simply because an end date for the competition has been set more than 16 months into the future.

Note: It is accepted that if the rules of a competition meet all the Bill of Rights principles but a third party - a sponsor or publisher, for example - fails to apply the agreed rules regarding rights as set out by the organiser, this does not mean that the contest fails the Artists' Bill of Rights. No blame can be attached to the organiser for the failure of third parties to adhere to the contest rules.

And, regardless of whether or not a competition meets all the Artists' Bill of Rights standards, if it is judged that the subject matter or theme of the competition may cause offence to some people, the right is reserved not to promote the competition on the Rights On List.

The Invitation


The Invitation

Listed below is an example of the invitation that is sent to organisations inviting them to become Bill of Rights Supporters. Depending on the particular circumstances the contents of the invitation may vary slightly from that shown here with ?'s replaced as appropriate. Any content inclosed within [ ] will be replaced with details of the association sending the invitation and may actually be signed off by multiple associations.

Dear ??????

We are writing to you in connection with the above competition on behalf of ????????, organisations whose members are professional photographers based in the UK and around the world.

The terms and conditions (at section ???) of the photography competition require all entrants to grant to ???????? “???????” and to “??????????”.

The ?????????? photography competition is an excellent way of promoting ??????????. However the terms and conditions of the contest will be viewed with complete dismay by ??????????, and will not have the desired effect with regards to promoting ????????.

We assume the competition T&C’s were created by legal specialists primarily concerned with protecting the company in respect of the photographs submitted, clearly an important consideration, but seemingly without giving thought to how such a wide and unneccesary harvesting of intellectual property rights will be viewed by ?????????.

We are supporters of the Artists’ Bill of Rights (ABoR), along with many other organisations from around the world, a project which has set out model terms and conditions for competitions to which creative works are submitted. Competitions and organisations adopting the principles set out in the ABoR are freely promoted on the ABoR website, via social media, and given the right to display the ABoR logo to promote their contests.

We have attached a one page pdf document summarising the benefits of adopting the ABoR principles for creative competitions. Your company seeks visibility in the creative community via your appeal for photographs and we believe it would be a huge PR plus for your brand to adopt the Artists’ Bill of Rights principles.

Please do contact us, we will be happy to answer any queries and we hope you will adopt the Artists’ Bill of Rights principles for your contests. We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

[Author's name]

On behalf of
[Organisation Name, Organisation Address]
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Copyright © 2011 Organisation Name


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