People often ask me if they can use my pictures for a vast array of different things, such as social media accounts, Deviant Art, competitions, webzines, youtube videos or facebook groups. This is a really good thing. I love it when people ask me for permission to do all sorts of things with my photos because 1) it’s polite to ask and 2) it keeps me informed about what my pictures are used for. It also lets me be the cool photographer who says yes to a lot of things. As part of this new blog adventure however, I’m going to be writing about the times I have to say no and explain it from an artists perspective.
So without further ado: Welcome to the “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” column, or TIWWCHNT for short.
Most cosplayers are people, and most people don’t really take the time to read things – like at my grandmothers 80th birthday party this weekend where those of us with allergies had one cake that said “gluten and lactose free” in big letters, on a table full of deliciously looking normal cakes and everyone at the party ate the allergen free one. The same principle that applies to cakes at a birthday party goes for photo/art release contracts. People just don’t read them.
There are a lot of companies out there who would love to feature your creative content in one way or another. Some, like Super Cosplay Girls are no fuzz, credit properly and only use the photos for what they are supposed to. Now please go submit my photos to them. Others might be advertising in big, flashy, neon colors something along the lines of “SUBIT YOUR ART HERE AND WIN A METRIC TONNE OF WORBLA“, and you, the model, just go “WHOA MAN! I gotta get in on some of that action!” Some of the times those companies are cool, and their contests and community spotlights completely legit. Some of them are Riot Games.
Riot Games, the owner of the incredibly popular League of Legends game run a youtube channel called All Chat that does a community spotlight section in each (?) episode. I havn’t really bothered checking out the show in itself, but what I did check out was the Official Fan Artwork License Agreement that you have to declare you’ve actually bothered reading before you can submit your work.
After a bit of fairly standard legal introductory nonsense it opens: “I hereby grant to Riot Games and its agents, affiliates, successors, and assigns a perpetual, irrevocable, universal, non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, sub-licensable, and transferable license to exhibit, use, distribute, and commercially exploit the Artwork or any portion, derivative, or modification thereof in any manner and for any purposes… Riot Games shall have the right to edit the Artwork in any manner and for any purpose, and to use any ideas, concepts, knowledge, or techniques contained in the Artwork for any purpose.”
In simpler words you give them the right to forever use the submitted artwork in any way they can possibly think of. Including monetizing your content while you get nothing. What you are supposed to get In return is all the exposure from having a big gaming company publish your work.. or..?
The answer is no. Riot games makes you waive your moral rights to the submitted artwork, which includes the right to be credited whenever it is used. Paragraph 2d of the License Grant even goes so far as to specify that “nothing in this agreement shall be contrued to grant me any right or ownership with respect to any content or intellectual property owned or licensed to Riot Games”. Licensed is the key word here. Because Riot Games is saying that when you license something to us, you give up any and all control over the submitted material. For all practical purposes they own it now. You still own it too by the way, but Riot Games could send you angry letters claiming you are in breach of their legal jibber jabber if you decide to monetize it somehow.
Now this is a pretty far fetched contract already, especially considering League of Legends is actually just a ripoff of another game, but that’s a whole other discussion I’m not going to go into and it actually gets worse. At some point some Riot Games lawyer-type probably said something along the lines of: “Hey you know what guys? Some of this shit is probably illegal in a lot of countries. Maybe we should make sure we get as much as possible out of the submissions even when local laws prohibit these kinds of completely one-sided contracts” – and so they did. If your local law does not allow a company to buttfuck you over if you hit the submit button then they have ensured that “the.. licensing of rights shall be modified to the extent necessary to comply with such local law while giving Riot Games the maximum rights possible to use and exploit the Artwork”. Fancy that!
Seriously guys. This is rock bottom, right?
Because section 4b and c of the contract specifies that anyone associated with Riot Games in any way, from the top CEO to the volunteering coffe-runner at a convention, be protected from ANY action or liability that might infringe on the artists copyright. And and the same goes for your identity. The contract specifies that Riot Games may publish your personal information, ignore any and all privacy rights, including “defamation or portrayal in a false light, whether intentional or unintentional.. to the extent permitted by law.” If Riot Games (or anyone associated with them) want to say that your mother was a hamster, that you cannot draw or take a photo even if your life depended on it or that you’re the half-nosed, hairy lovechild of The Dark Lord Voldemort and a particularly wooly sheep THEY CAN DO SO because you’ve submitted a picture and said “Yes Riot Games, you can call me all the filthy things you want”.
I’m starting to get carried away here so lets just get to the point: This is probably the worst license contract I have ever encountered during my time as a cosplay photographer. I’m not saying Riot Games would actually do all these things, they probably wouldn’t. But this contract both completely sever the artist from any ties to his or her creation, and at the same time absolves the company from any and all responsibilities in regard to how they govern said licensed material. It is a completely one-sided deal with only the marginal benefit of maybe getting some exposure if- and only if – they decide to do a community spotlight post with credit back to the artist. Which is totally up to them.
Now I’m a total exposure whore and would probably sell my granny on ebay if it meant I get more likes on my facebook page, but this is just wrong. This is not how companies who rely on great art are supposed to treat the artistic community. And that is exactly why you’re not going to see any of my photos featured in any channel that requires me to sign the Riot Games Fan Artwork License Agreement.
Riot Games – This is why we can’t have nice things.