Monday, 08 August 2011 00:00
Manfrotto is a well known global brand, particularly by all those with an interest in imaging. Their products, camera and lighting supports, are manufactured by Lino Manfrotto + Co., S.p.A. at their HQ in Bassano del Grappa in Italy. Perhaps less well known is that the Manfrotto brand is one of many imaging related brands owned by the UK based Vitec Group's Imaging and Staging Division. On 11th May 2011 Manfrotto launched a photography competition entitled 'Imagine More' which finished on July 14th 2011 attracting over 7,000 entries.
This is how Manfrotto describe their Imagine More theme;
"Manfrotto - supporting exceptional images for everyone from amateurs to hobbyists to professionals to specialists to experts. Imagine more impact. Imagine more drama. Imagine more emotion. Imagine More."
The Artists' Bill of Rights campaign recognise that competitions are an excellent way to promote a brand, that they have an advantage over traditional advertising in that competitions attract the active participation of the target market. Photo competitions in particular, when well executed, will help foster positive brand awareness by attracting the public to the competition, engaging their creativity through the potential of winning a prize, as well as the possibility of their work being promoted to a wider audience.
In June the competition was brought to our attention by one of the Artists Bill of Rights Supporters. They had noticed that the competition's terms and conditions seemed rather strange for a company marketing products to the imaging community.
Rule 5E of the original terms and conditions is as follows (words in bold have been emphasised by us) -
"By uploading the Submission the Participant grants and agrees, for no payment, to grant to SPONSOR all intellectual property rights in the Submission and each of its constituent parts, which rights include, without limitation, the SPONSOR's right to publish, make available to the public whether directly or indirectly, and/or reproduce on any material now existing or later created the Submission through any media now existing or available at any time during, or after, the Promotion Period notably on any related websites, in any promotional materials, whether related or un-related to the Promotion, and at any other location throughout the world, whether physical or online, that SPONSOR, in its sole discretion, deems appropriate or necessary for the operation of this Promotion and any related publicity and/or promotional purposes and for the duration of protection of the rights. Participant agrees to enter into any further documentation reasonably necessary in order to give effects to these rights.
"In addition, to the extent permitted by the Law, Participant warrants that to the extent permitted by law any so called "moral rights" in the Submission have been waived and shall not be asserted and Participant acknowledges and agrees that SPONSOR may use any ideas from any Submission or other submitted materials, whether or not Participant has been awarded a prize in connection with any such Submission or other materials."
The phrase 'all intellectual property rights' could be construed as implying a claim over the entrants copyright and, as stated at the end of the first paragraph above, the entrant must agree to enter into further documentation to give effect to this claim. Even if there is doubt about the precise meaning of the words "all intellectual property rights", the T&Cs were certainly claiming unlimited use in perpetuity of all the submissions, and that all entrants had to waive their moral rights.
Two supporters of the Artists' Bill of Rights, The Association of Photographers (AoP) and Pro-Imaging (PI), sent a joint email (on 7 June 2011) setting out their concerns with the above terms and conditions, urging changes, and recommending that Manfrotto become a supporter of the Artists’ Bill of Rights. The joint email was addressed to Francesco Bernardi, CEO of Vitec Group's Imaging and Staging Division of which the Manfrotto brand is a part. We did not have an email address for Francesco and so sent our email via the head office of the parent company, the Vitec Group at Kingston-upon-Thames in the UK. We have published below an extract from our email -
"We are writing to you in connection with the above competition on behalf of the Association of Photographers and Pro-Imaging, organisations whose members are professional photographers based in the UK and around the world.
"The terms and conditions (at section 5E) of the photography competition require all entrants to grant to Manfrotto “all intellectual property rights in the Submission and each of its constituent parts” and to “warrant that “moral rights” in the Submission have been waived and shall not be asserted”.
"The Imagine More photography competition is an excellent way of promoting the Manfrotto brand to the photographic community. However the terms and conditions of the contest will be viewed with complete dismay by photographers, both amateur and professional, and will not have the desired effect with regards to promoting the Manfrotto brand.
"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 photographers.
"Both the Association of Photographers and Pro-Imaging 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. Vitec has a considerable number of brands used by the creative community and we believe it would be a huge PR plus for Vitec’s brands should they decide 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."
We hoped that Manfrotto would change the terms and conditions and also decide that becoming a supporter of the Artists Bill of Rights would be a good promotional move for their brand. On the 10th of June we received an acknowledgement from Vitec head office assuring us that our email would be passed to Francesco and his new PA, and that the head office would ensure we received a reply.
While still waiting for a response from Manfrotto we noticed that section 5E of the terms and conditions were changed as follows (words in bold have been emphasised by us) -
"By uploading the Submission the Participant agrees that the Submission may be published and distributed for the purpose of administering the Promotion (including publishing on websites so that public voting and judges voting can take place). Submissions which do not win the Promotion or which do not become Finalists (as defined in paragraph 6 (A)) will not be published or distributed by SPONSOR or Brandmovers outside of the administration of the Promotion without the prior consent of the Participant. Finalists (as defined in paragraph 6 (A) below) agree that SPONSOR and Brandmovers may publish, distribute and use the Submission, in whole or in part in the Manfrotto IMAGINE MORE Manifesto and related advertising and promotional materials, which may include inclusion in promotional activity at the Venice Film Festival, advertising and promotional materials in any media, worldwide, without limit in time. Finalists agree to enter into any further documentation reasonably necessary in order to give effects to these rights, and failure to do so may mean disqualification of Winners from their entitlement to collect the Prize.
"In addition, to the extent permitted by the Law, Finalist warrants that to the extent permitted by law any so called “moral rights” in the Submission have been waived and shall not be asserted and Finalists acknowledge and agrees that SPONSOR may use any ideas from their Submission or other submitted materials, whether or not such Finalist has been awarded a prize in connection with any such Submission or other materials."
This is a significant improvement. Gone is the claim for "all intellectual property rights" from all participants. Now only the finalists grant rights, such rights as are required to promote the Manfrotto IMAGINE MORE Manifesto. We thank Manfrotto for this improvement.
However, finalists are still required to waive their moral rights. Moral rights are fundamental rights for creative people, including the right to be credited as the author of the work, and the right to object to derogatory treatment of their work. No competition should be seeking to circumvent these rights, why should it need to do so?
What is the Manfrotto Imagine More Manifesto? Is it a promotional device restricted solely to promoting the Manfrotto 'Imagine More' competition(s), or is the 'manifesto' a promotional device to directly promote Manfrotto's products? If the former 'Imagine More' would comply with the Artists' Bill of Rights in the same way that 'Driven Creativity' is a promotional phrase used by GTechnology by Hitachi to promote their excellent annual Driven Creativity competition.
We can't answer any of these questions Manfrotto until Manfrotto offer explanations.
On 11th July, not having heard from Manfrotto, we again wrote to Vitec head office to remind them of our email inviting Manfrotto to support the Artists' Bill of Rights. This brought another acknowledgement from Vitec head office on 13 July 2011 saying that they would "chase up a response for you today."
On the 1st of August, still not having received a response, we (AoP & PI) wrote one more time to Mr Bernardi promoting the positive benefits to a company, especially one whose customers are predominately creatives, of supporting the Artists Bill of Rights. We also said this in our email -
"We have written an article concerning the Imagine More competition, the beneficial changes made to its terms and conditions concerning entrants rights, but also expressing our disappointment that Vitec/Manfrotto have not yet responded to our invitation to support the Artists Bill of Rights. The attached article is scheduled for publication next week and we will be happy to correct any errors within it."
"However, we do hope that you will contact us to discuss the Artists Bill of Rights, the positive PR that will accrue to your brands through supporting its principles, the campaign’s promotion of your brands, and join the worldwide group of organisations supporting the Artists’ Bill of Rights."
Today, the 8th July 2011 the silence has continued and so we have published this account of our attempts to engage with Manfrotto and the Vitec Group. We are disappointed that Manfrotto, following receipt of our email in June, and making some beneficial changes to the terms and conditions of the competition, have been unwilling to engage in discussion with us concerning the Artists' Bill of Rights, nor to respect the moral rights of artists.
We still hope that Manfrotto will contact us to discuss the Artists' Bill of Rights, or indeed the parent company, Vitec Group, the owner of the following imaging brands - Avenger, Brilliant Stages, Colorama, Gitzo, Kata, Lastolite, Litec, Manfrotto, National Geographic (manufactured & distributed under licence), and Tomcat.
We believe it is a great promotional opportunity for Vitec/Manfrotto to be able to promote their brands with the additional declaration that "We Support the Artists' Bill of Rights' along with the right to use the logo below -
If anyone wants to contact Vitec Group and or Manfrotto about the above issues write to Francesco Bernardi, CEO of Vitec Group's Imaging and Staging Division, and use these contact details -
Pro-Imaging is a worldwide support group for professional photographers
who are pro-active in defending photographers rights.