Apple’s #ShotOniPhone Photo Contest Responds to Criticism of Unfair Terms

4 February 2019

You’ve probably seen the images on billboards dotted around cities – gorgeous photos shot on iPhones and blown up to gigantic proportions.  Now you can be in with a chance of seeing your best shot up there too – but it comes with a cautionary tale.

On 22 January 2019, Apple launched their #ShotOniPhone photo contest, inviting iPhone XS, XR and XS Max users to submit their best photos via Twitter, Instagram, Weibo or email before 07:59am GMT on Friday 8 February 2019.

The ten best photos will be featured ‘on billboards in select cities, Apple retail stores and online’, according to the competition website.

However, artists and photographers quickly picked up on the small print: by entering your image, you grant Apple unlimited usage of your image for one year across a host of promotional and commercial avenues without payment.

Apple did say that it would credit the image – which, no doubt, would provide invaluable exposure to any photographer – but it didn’t specify to what extent.  In previous years, photos have been credited only with the photographer’s first name and the initial of their last name.

3D artist Tim Reynolds, who often tweets about companies taking advantage of artists, was one of the most prominent voices:

Reynolds spoke to The Verge about the issue, saying:

‘Anything less than paying people for their usage is pure exploitation…The rules [and] conditions are gross, and that’s what I wanted to bring attention to — the fact that they’re robbing you blind of your rights and ability to be properly compensated for the work by simply submitting.’

Apple were quick to respond to the criticism, adding a line to the contest page just a couple of days later saying that it ‘believes strongly that artists should be compensated for their work.  Photographers who shoot the final 10 winning photos will receive a licensing fee for use of such photos on billboards and other Apple marketing channels.’  But it didn’t specify by how much.

The debate about artists providing their work in return for exposure only is not a new one, but this story is a prominent example of the risks involved in artists’ rights when entering competitions.

Last year, Allen Murabayashi, chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter – a website and image hub for photographers – wrote on PetaPixel about his concerns about the terms of entry to the 2019 Wellcome Photography Prize.

Unlike Apple, Wellcome was indeed offering cash prizes for entry to its competition.  But the terms and conditions were ‘onerous’, Murabayashi said: ‘Wellcome’s T&C suggest the contest raison d’etre is to generate a library of contemporary science images for the Trust to use without compensation in perpetuity.’

No doubt Wellcome and Apple are not the only ones to include sweeping usage terms in their photography competitions, so potential entrants are always advised to take an eagle eye to the small print.

To find out more about how much your image could be worth commercially, The Association of Photographers (The AOP) offers a guide to licensing, and a usage calculator.

And Thomson Reuters offers a guide to copyright for online images on its Practical Law site.

If you’re interested in entering the #ShotOniPhone photo contest, you can read more about it in our calendar.  Just don’t forget to read the terms and conditions…

Feature image: Woman in Front of Petra, Shot on iPhone 7 by Erdem Summak

Forest, shot on iPhone 6s by Mariko Klug

Swimming in Water, shot on iPhone 6 by Mandy Blake