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Yet Another Calendar Rights Grab

By April 19, 2022No Comments

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Blog Coordinator

Last week the AARP Foundation sent out emails inviting recipients to submit photos for their 2023 calendar contest. The theme is “Living the Dream.” The email says the theme “is all about nature and experiencing joy outside, among new sites and exploring new areas.” Cool, right? Wrong! Like so many others, the calendar contest rules are unnecessarily broad and do not respect photographers’ intellectual property rights.

Screenshot of AARP Foundation calendar contest webpage 4/18/22

The problems are in the small print

The official rules of the calendar contest include this section:

“Permission to Use Entry Photography: By entering the Contest, each contestant agrees that Sponsor and its licensees may publish his or her captioned photograph in the AARP Foundation 2023 calendar and exhibit, copy, publish, make derivative works from or otherwise use his or her entry photograph and other entry materials for any purpose, in any media, in perpetuity, without limitation or additional permission or compensation, except where prohibited by law. These rights include exclusive first worldwide publication rights in and to all entries for the period up to publication of the AARP Foundation 2023 Calendar.”

According to these terms, a photographer would give the foundation, and any person or organization they now or subsequently license, the right to use his or her photo for anything, anywhere, anytime, in any form, without any compensation, even if the photo wasn’t selected for the calendar. In addition, the photographer cannot publish the photo in any form (Facebook, Instagram, his or her own website) or use it in an article or exhibit until after the calendar is published. And they don’t even promise to give the photographer a photo credit!

Why enter?

Is the small chance of having your photo appear in a calendar worth giving up so many rights?

These overly broad rights grabs in calendar contests are an ongoing problem for nature photographers that we’ve covered before here, here, and here. Under the kindest interpretation, the lawyers who write these contest rules are being excessively protective of the contest sponsor, seeking to avoid any conceivable future legal problems. However, a far more reasonable set of terms could easily be crafted that give the sponsor the flexibility it needs while still respecting photographers’ rights. There are also outfits who use contests like these to build a library of images that they don’t need to pay for and that they can then use or license as they wish, but that’s another story.

In either case, these contests devalue nature photography and the work of professional photographers. Who would still pay to license rights to a photograph for a calendar if photographers are willing to give their work away free? If you see a contest like this, with rules that are unreasonably generous to the sponsor, steer clear and let us know.

Working for you

NANPA is continually working to protect the rights of photographers on a wide range of copyright and intellectual property issues, including participation in the Copyright Alliance and other coalitions.  Learn more about NANPA’s copyright and IP advocacy here.

And, if you are still interested in entering your photos in contests, see NANPA’s free Contest Secrets: What to Know Before You Enter a Photo handbook.

Frank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photograph services to nonprofit organizations. He manages NANPA’s blog and can be found online at or on Instagram @frankgallagherfoto.