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