Updated: Jun 28
I am responding to an email I’ve received from VisitBrighton about my concerns. To their credit, they have been cordial and very quick to respond and I hope I managed to put across I value the organisation of VisitBrighton for supporting the art and creative industry in Brighton & Hove, however, I was concerned with their terms and conditions for the use of artists’ works. I’m attaching an image of the email response to ensure I can’t be accused of misrepresenting.
Firstly to explain why I took the steps I had prior. Unethical uses of artists’ work are all too common, and more difficult to rectify unless you’re an organisation, hold more considerable status or have greater access to funds, something smaller-scale artists lack all of the above. There is a plethora of similar photograph and videography farming techniques used across the internet. I’ve even seen companies such as the Sun newspaper steal a photographer’s photo and publish without permission, credit, or even the photographer being aware until after it was too late. By that point, the photographer is left with little choice but to accept what little compensation the large organisation offers whether it’s credit or a small sum (which pales in comparison to the scope of a national newspaper). I’ve been told many horror stories from other photographers of competitions where you sign away rights merely by entering them basically giving ownership (or allowing overreaching use cases of an artist’s work for little to no gain even if profit is gained by the organisation). Something I saw all too familiar, and quite frankly shocking because of VisitBrighton’s stance on wanting to help creative industries, artists and the people who make Brighton ever-so vibrant.
I think it is obvious that no one has to agree to the terms and conditions. I was talking about unethical practices in terms of using artists’ work, not a problem limited to VisitBrighton. A photographer friend of mine had a photo of theirs taken and used by the Sun newspaper without consultation, permission, credit or anything else. It went to print and was published online, the photographer got in touch quite rightfully annoyed their work was used without their permission, knowledge or payment. The Sun then apologised and offered a small sum. The choice had been taken from the artist in question. The photo was already out there, already used, already printed, and on the website, credit could be added but this doesn’t solve the issue. It exacerbates it.
Could the photographer have sued? Yes. I know not whether they went down that path. However, as in many aspects of our lives, consent should be gathered prior to and not after it is far too late. Again this is one of my issues with VisitBrighton’s terms and conditions. If my work was to be used in a booklet I should be informed prior to this use, I am agreeing to them posting on social media, not for further use, if they wish I personally would be ecstatic about this but would want to know beforehand and be given the courtesy of giving permission as in the end it is my work. They are merely using. I should have a say in this, seems rather obvious, but for the arts, this is all too often an afterthought.
I would firstly like to disagree that there is no need for the artist to agree to their terms and conditions. The agreement gives as is stated in their Ts&Cs the right to use. Again. Consent should be gained for each use case as each is (I hoped I wouldn’t have to say) different.
To their comment of it being the standard practice of similar organisations, saying something unethical is commonly done doesn’t make it any less unethical. My comment was aimed at VisitBrighton for claiming to support the arts industry (which in many ways they do), but then when it comes to smaller creative artists that go straight out of the window.
Furthermore, to their credit, they are a non-profit, something I found difficult to tell as I searched for ‘organisation details’ on their website, the local council’s website, Companies House and even searching for registered charities within the UK. In this case, I’m happy to swallow my words as they won’t use artists’ work for profit. So this does alleviate very many of my concerns.
Again they mention crediting the author isn’t always possible. Surely it should be if you are using someone else’s work you haven’t paid for? I mean a small acknowledgement in a poster, billboard, or in a caption under a photo in a booklet. The lack of payment makes credit ever-so more important a courtesy, again, goes without saying; especially for smaller artists struggling in an ever-so difficult enough economic climate.
The last point mentioned is a photographer can have their photo shared without agreeing to their terms and conditions and merely be shared via VisitBrighton’s Instagram feed.
I personally am happy to have them use my photo in all of the above as they mentioned in their terms and conditions under a few reasonable conditions.
That my work must never be used for-profit
That when my work is used I need to be informed of where — so I can find a copy and see where my work has been placed. So I can see my work where published. As I currently do add to my website under the ‘Exhibited Works’ section.
That I must be credited in all uses unless I’ve been asked and given explicit permission
To end this, I must emphasise that VisitBrighton has been very accommodating and we’ve had a productive, I feel, back and forth. I do hope this, though a small example, is a greater appreciation for the works of artists, just as VisitBrighton clearly does throughout all of their work and support of the creative industry in Brighton. I merely wanted to point out a current issue with their “photo terms and conditions” which especially may negatively impact smaller artists who make up the vast majority of creative work in general. The last reply I received is attached below. Our conservation ended amicably, understanding the importance of creatives in Brighton but also VisitBrighton which does put creative artists of all forms on the ‘map of Brighton’ so to speak, not to mention supporting lots of the artists, events and venues that make the joint creative culture of Brighton possible. They agreed to add contact details onto the terms page to; in their words; “facilitate better communication” which is really all I wanted, better communication, negotiation and collaboration rather than the dictation of how work may be used with a blanket ‘agreement’, which, though common practice, is unethical.
I’m very grateful to the contact at VisitBrighton I conversed with, the support from other artists around Brighton who contacted me regarding this issue and for open communication and coming to terms based on mutual understanding and common interests.
“We only direct photographers to the terms & conditions if we would like the option to use the image outside of social media (posters etc). We understand that each individual photographer may wish to specify their own terms & conditions so we’re always happy to discuss options with photographers on a case-by-case basis; to make this clearer I will add contact details on to the terms page to facilitate better communication.”
As of 13th February, two weeks after finishing the majority of this post they have still not added contact details to this terms page, so I'm hoping it's something they will actually do. I'm aware making any changes in semi-large organisations may be time, consuming so I'll probably wait 6 months and check this again and follow up if required.
Copy of the email response from VisitBrighton:
A copy of the license agreement I've given VisitBrighton ouitlining the use case of the photo, agreed-upon terms by their use and constraints within their use of the photo. I've deleted all personal and specific details but left the terms intact for demonstrative purposes.