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The New York Times wants to publish your inauguration photos. Sounds exciting right? Maybe not. Read the fine print of their terms of use contract before you upload. The Times states: “You waive any rights you may have in having the material altered or changed in a manner not agreeable to you…”

In short what all this legal speak means is–once you upload to their site, they own your work and can do whatever they want to with it including selling your work to third parties. If they earn $100,000 selling your photo to news outlets around the world –too bad for you!  Unlike CNN iReports who pays 50% of all third party earnings to citizen journalists who donate their works–NY Times pays zero. We discussed the lack of consumer awareness of this problem in our recent report.

The Times call for submissions seems innocent enough when in big print: “The New York Times you agree that we may use your image(s) in all manner and media of The New York Times and, that you have all necessary rights (including copyright, trademark and other proprietary rights) to make the image available to us for all such uses, and you agree to the rules of our Member Agreement found online at (link).” Go to this link and you then get the bad news–no money for you even if they profit off your work.

Read the fine print terms : “You grant NYT a perpetual, nonexclusive, world-wide, royalty free, sub-licensable license to the Submissions, which includes without limitation the right for or any third party The New York Times designates, to use, copy, transmit, excerpt, publish, distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, create derivative works of, host, index, cache, tag, encode, modify and adapt (including without limitation the right to adapt to streaming, downloading, broadcast, mobile, digital, thumbnail, scanning or other technologies) in any form or media now known or hereinafter developed, any Submission posted by you on or to or any other Web site owned by NYT, including any Submission posted on through a third party.”

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Instead of giving to NY Times or CNN, consider the success of the recent Twitter member’s capture of the Hudson River plane crash that was distributed free throughout the world. Janis Krums, instead of transferring rights to a mainstream media outlet for their profit, uploaded on Twitter. He maintained his ownership rights and out scooped mainstream media too. Sam Bayard noted on Harvard’s Citizen Media Law Project site, another alternative to NY Times:  “You also can upload your photographs to Flickr, which provides an option to license and share your photos under Creative Commons. “

Citizen Journalists need to be savvy about mainstream media’s “terms of use” contracts and what they mean or you risk being taken advantage of by big media interests.

**UPDATE: 2/10/2009: While Krums made the photo available worldwide by posting it on Twitter, a third-party sub-licenscing deal was apparently made with AP. Santiago Lyon, AP’s Director of Photography, told, “I can confirm we purchased the rights to the photo of the airliner in the water from Janis Krums, recognizing its newsworthiness and timeliness during an especially hectic afternoon and evening.”

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Consumer Alert…NY TIMES Wants Citizen Journalists’ Photos:

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