where to draw the line?

not long ago, i received a flickr mail, inviting me to submit some of my minifigure photos to a photo competition. initially, i was flattered. after all, who doesn’t love that feeling of belonging that accompanies being invited over to play? plus, it meant that the person inviting me had noticed some of my photos (even tho’ they’ve been few and far between of late) and that’s good, right? so, i found myself purring like a happy kitten.

and then i clicked on over to the provided link and read the competition rules. it seems that what was actually going on was that these guys were sourcing new, original content that hadn’t been shared anywhere for their book. a book which they expect to profit from. should my photo be chosen for inclusion, i’ll get a copy of their book. if i’m one of ten lucky “winners,” i’ll get a gift certificate. oh joy. meanwhile, they sell thousands of copies of their book, which is made infinitely better by the creativity of these competition “winners,” and they make all the cash.

i don’t think this is all that unusual within the legography community and perhaps within the art community at large. even the little town where i live has a sculpture association that convinces artists from all over denmark to put up their works in our town, positing it as the largest open sculpture gallery in denmark. as far as i can see, they do nothing to actually get any of the works sold, aside from having a little (and i do mean little) sign at their base with the price on them and those of us who live there get to enjoy a whole lot of awesome art that we’d otherwise not have access to.

granted, this is slightly different from that, in that i’m sure these guys will be doing all they can to make sure they sell loads of copies of their book. it’s just that the profits will be going to them and not to the contributing artists who help make their book look awesome. i’m by no means saying that they aren’t putting a lot of work into the book themselves. it’s more that i’m wondering if a free copy and the hope of a gift certificate are really enough compensation for their collaborators?

so, where do we draw the line? we are, after all, sharing our work here on #stuckinplastic and not expecting compensation for it. but what are the ethics of this practice? and how do we know when to be flattered and participate and when to stand up and say, “wait a minute, something’s not cool about this?”

i’m honestly not really sure what i think. i do freely share my photos online on sites like flickr, instagram, twitter, facebook, g+ and on my own blog and i’ve always felt like if you’re willing to put them online, you have to be willing to lose control of them, which can include not being properly credited/compensated for your work. but sometimes it also means that your talents are discovered and you get work or sales out of the fact that you shared. and, the fact is that if i hadn’t shared them online in the first place, i’d never have met a rather large group of people who are very good friends today. and my life is immeasurably richer for having these people in my life.

that said, i don’t think i’ll be entering this particular “competition.”

~ julochka

what do you guys think? is this ethical? normal? perfectly ok? or a bit suspect?


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8 years ago

I got this too and it didn’t seem quite right to me either, although plenty of people seemed to be commenting on it and engaging with it. Oddly, I’m happy enough for people to use my photos for free online if they ask (with credit) but the idea of it being used in a published book, that has more immediate financal rewards for the authors, feels wrong! In this case, I wonder how consistent the book will be if all the photos come from different sources! Not sure how it will work and how cohesive the produced work will be… Read more »

8 years ago
Reply to  Lizzi

I think there are already books after this pattern. They definitely are a nice read. Still I do prefer a book from a single artist (or a community of people who know each other) like “Small scenes from a big galaxy”.

8 years ago

Hmmmm..not sure my English is good enough to explain my thoughts about this specific topic in a proper way. Even though I may just be a tiny birthday cake candle among those brightly shining dazzling star lights in this toyphotography community I wouldn´t have joined this “competition” you mentioned. Collecting others´ works (art, craft, effort, ideas) and selling them for one´s own enrichment is a thing I don´t like at all (which explains why I´m where I am). I guess these days there are far too many people on earth than original tasks are provided. If everyone was a craftsman… Read more »

8 years ago

This is a difficult line to draw. And I think it’s even harder if you look more closely on the condition that come with services as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram because we give up more rights then we think of, we let the services us our work with in there services.

Shelly Corbett
8 years ago

We have talked several times at SiP about taking back control of our work from Big Inc (at least I have). I am very aware that we give away a certain amount of our rights to our images when we post to SM. At the very least we are providing content to these big corporations that keep people coming back to their platforms where they can sell advertising and make money off of us. It is a very depressing thought. Like Julie says this latest “contest” of free work for a book someone else will profit from. Simply check out… Read more »

8 years ago

I didn’t get an invite. Should I be insulted? :-) But I heard about the contest through another source. I’ll admit that at first I was interested to submit one or two of my minifig photos to see what happened but then I read the rules more closely. The photos are supposed to be new photos – not already published on Flickr. This means I would have to spend hours taking a photo specifically for the book, editing the photo and then submitting it with no guarantee of any income, even though the book would probably make money? That setup… Read more »

8 years ago

Surely an interesting topic but also difficult to talk about, so I guess my comment is going to be long. I did not receive the e-mail invitation but, if it’s the contest I think, I’ve learned about it a few days/weeks ago through a LEGO-related website. Since then I’ve been thinking about whether or not I’ll submit a few pictures. I am quite used that others are making money with my work without me receiving financial compensation for it. First my professional occupation is scientific research and basically scientific publication is about people making money out of the work of… Read more »

Lyn Miller-Lachmann
8 years ago

I wrote an essay for an anthology for which I was not compensated, but I knew it came from an ethical small press, and the proceeds from the collection did not go to its editor but to an organization that helps teens in crisis. I would not respond to an invitation to submit work for free to people I didn’t know but who would profit from my work while I wouldn’t see a penny. If it’s a viable publication and they’re serious about what they’re doing, they can pay contributors.

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