I would like to know if I need to have the rights for commercial usage for a photo that I want to enter in a photo competition. Consider this scenario: I take a photo of someone (e.g. a model) and they grant me a non-exclusive, non-commercial right to use/distribute the photo online and in other media. If I want to enter this photo in a photo competition (where prizes can be won). This way, I'm not directly making money off the photo, but if I win a prize I would potentially have a monetary benefit. Does this qualify as commercial usage of the photo? Does it matter if there are no prizes? And if there are prizes, does it matter if they are monetary or material prizes (e.g. photo equipment)? I live in Germany, I'm interested in the situation for both national and international competitions.

I know that some competitions ask the participants to grant the host commercial usage rights as well, so those competitions are out of the question.

  • One thing to look at is whether the owners of the competition gain rights in the entries?
    – mkennedy
    Mar 20 '17 at 21:25
  • @mkennedy See last paragraph.
    – MoritzLost
    Mar 20 '17 at 21:35

The model does not own the copyright, the photographer does.

Many parts of the world require a model release before a photo can be used commercially. Commercially generally means used to sell goods or services where the impression is given that the model endorses the goods or services, more or less, in advertising. A model release is not required to otherwise use the photograph, e.g. to illustrate a news story, to sell copies of the photograph or win prizes in competitions with it.

  • Yes, I was wondering if I can use a photo for which I have a model release that only covers non-commercial usage. This is why I wanted to know if competitions even count as commercial usage
    – MoritzLost
    Mar 19 '17 at 19:39
  • Also you are not correct in saying that you don't need a model release to publish a photo. At least in Germany, you need a model release for any non-private use of their photos
    – MoritzLost
    Mar 19 '17 at 20:02
  • So how do newspapers work? They get a release from everyone in the football crowd?
    – Dale M
    Mar 19 '17 at 21:37
  • They are, to use the German term, Beiwerk. But I don't really want to argue with you about that, sorry but your post really doesn't answer my question.
    – MoritzLost
    Mar 19 '17 at 21:59

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