Running a small online competition - help me make sure we're staying on the right side of the law.
May 21, 2012 5:00 AM   Subscribe

The charity I volunteer with want me to set up a photography competition with a prize or prizes to be determined. Anyone can submit an unlimited number of entries (within reason) and the winner(s) will be decided by judges appointed by us. We'll display the photos on our website. What kind of legal warning do I need to provide on the competition entry page to safeguard us? Can I use some kind of standard template?

More details: we'll be displaying the photos on our website, and I'd like to get them to say that they've asked the consent of anyone who appears prominently in the photograph. I'd also like to say they retain rights to the image but we can use it in our promotional material (though I'm slightly unsure of this). An additional (possible complicating factor): I'm not 100% sure there will actually be a prize. There should be, but the money hasn't been allocated yet - is this something I can account for?
posted by Kirn to Law & Government (4 answers total)
PDN has contests on a regular basis. Maybe their contest can help you.
posted by Yellow at 5:16 AM on May 21, 2012


The answer to your first question will depend on your jurisdiction. The answer to your question about the money, as well as the required structure of the competition as a whole, will also depend on your jurisdiction.

For example, if you were in New York, with its Civil Rights Law Sections 50 and 51, an attorney would likely advise you to have the photographers get the subjects to sign a model waiver releasing all rights in the photograph and consenting to your organization's use of photos for advertising or trade purposes. This would allow your organization to use the submitted photos for brochures, publications, etc. without needing to think through whether the publication was newsworthy or otherwise not within the advertising or trade uses regulated by the statutes.

If your charity has a lawyer that they regularly turn to for advice, he or she should be able to set you up with a memo describing your organization's obligations under your state's law and also with a release template to be signed by the photo subjects.

I note also that for copyright law reasons, you will probably want a license from the photographer for any future use of the photos.

In sum, it's best to ask this of a lawyer that practices in this area routinely in your jurisdiction. Attorneys who advise and represent nonprofits are likely to have experience in structuring fundraising efforts as well and can advice you on your second question.

Good luck with the contest!
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:18 AM on May 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

*advise you on your second question.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:19 AM on May 21, 2012

Thanks guys.
posted by Kirn at 1:35 AM on May 22, 2012

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