Travel as Far Away as You Can from this Rights Grab

Alaska Valley - Copyright Carolyn E. Wright

The Travel Channel is hosting a Photo Contest where, just by submitting an entry, you transfer the copyright to your photo to Scripps Networks, LLC. The operative language is here [with our comments in brackets and our bolding]:

7. Ownership of Submissions: By submitting a Submission [defined as "(1) high-resolution, digital color photograph (the “Photo”)], Entrant acknowledges and agrees that: (a) Sponsor [defined as Scripps Networks, LLC] is the sole and exclusive owner, in perpetuity and throughout the world, of all right, title, and interest in and to the Submission, including, without limitation, all copyright, trademark, and other proprietary rights in and to the Submission (and all renewals and extensions thereof now or hereafter provided by law) and all the rights therein and thereto; (b) ownership of the Submission shall inure to the benefit of Sponsor from the date of conception, of creation, or of fixation in a tangible medium of expression (whichever occurs first), of such Submission [from the time you took the photo!]; (c) Entrant’s Submission is a “work made for hire” (as that term is used in the United States Copyright Act of 1976, as amended); (d) to the extent that Entrant’s Submission is not a work made for hire, Entrant hereby assigns to Sponsor all right, title, and interest in and to the Submission and all copies thereof that Entrant may have or obtain without any further consideration, free from any claim, lien, balance due, or rights of retention thereto; (e) Entrant waives all claims to any and all moral rights in the Submission including, without limitation, Entrant’s right of attribution and integrity; and (f) Sponsor may exploit the Submission (and all rights therein) in any manner throughout the world without restriction of any kind, or payment to, or consent from, anyone. Sponsor reserves the right to modify or edit the winning Submission for content including all copyrights and trademarks, and Promotion Entities or their assigned agent(s) will have the right to reproduce, publish, adapt, modify and/or revise the Submission, in its sole discretion, in any manner or form throughout the world, in perpetuity. Sponsor will own all rights to the winning Submission.

WOW!  Scripps works it in every way possible to make sure that it grabs your rights.

Likewise, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently confirmed that an electronic agreement is sufficient to satisfy the intent and writing requirements of 17 USC 204 for copyright transfers:

The issue we must yet resolve is whether a subscriber, who “clicks yes” in response to MRIS’s electronic TOU prior to uploading copyrighted photographs, has signed a written transfer of the exclusive rights of copyright ownership in those photographs consistent with Section 204(a). Although the Copyright Act itself does not contain a definition of a writing or a signature, much less address our specific inquiry, Congress has provided clear guidance on this point elsewhere, in the E- Sign Act.

. . .

We find this analysis helpful in reaching the same conclusion in the context of the Copyright Act. To invalidate copyright transfer agreements solely because they were made electronically would thwart the clear congressional intent embodied in the E-Sign Act. We therefore hold that an electronic agreement may effect a valid transfer of copyright interests under Section 204 of the Copyright Act.

This issue also is important to real estate photographers. A Maryland federal court recently addressed this issue as applied to a MLS. The court held that the copyright transfers were valid when agreed to in the MLS’s Terms of Use of its website.

In sum, be very, very careful when uploading your photos to websites!

– HT to Tom Schwabel for submitting the Travel Channel Photo Contest Rights Grab

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