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Law Society of New South Wales’ “Just Art” competition, but no justice for artists?

29th June 2017

About Arts Law competition reviews

Arts Law regularly reviews competitions for their terms and conditions dealing with copyright and moral rights, and rates those terms and conditions out of 5 stars. As such, it is a limited review and not a broad review of all terms and conditions including the prize. Entrants should always weigh up Arts Law’s ratings against the prize and possible profile-raising which may result from being a finalist or winner; it may be that a competition with a low star rating awards a wonderful prize! Read more about the rating system here.

By accepting the terms and conditions of a competition, artists should be aware that they are entering a legally binding contract.

For more information on competition conditions see our free information sheet here. Artists are welcome to contact Arts Law for legal advice on the terms of a competition. We also invite competition organisers to contact Arts Law for best practice assistance to make their terms and conditions fairer for artists.

The Law Society of New South Wales’ “Just Art” competition

The deadline for this competition is 31 July 2017.

This competition is open to members of the Law Society of New South Wales (The Law Society), others practising NSW lawyers, law students or those with an interest in the law, submitting an artwork touching on the theme of justice. 

Arts Law has rated this competition 2.5 out of 5 stars

You can read the Terms and Conditions on the Law Society website.

In sum, Arts Law has concerns with these terms and conditions in particular because of the wide breadth of the licence required from the entrants.

Finalists are required to grant a very broad licence to The Law Society.  There is no limitation on the duration, territory or purpose of the licence. It is stated that under the licence The Law Society can publish photos of the artworks in any publications online or in print determined by The Law Society.   Essentially The Law Society can reproduce photos of the artworks in any kind of publication, for any purpose, anywhere in the world, forever, without compensation to the artist. 

The terms and conditions go on to state that “each Artist” (arguably this means all entrants, not just finalists) is required to allow The Law Society “the unconditional use” of their entries for “promotions, media, advertising, announcements” but also for “any purpose considered  necessary or desirable  by The Law Society without compensation, consideration, notice , review or consent where permitted”.   This licence is also too broad. It is unlimited in duration and territory, the purpose is too wide and it is not clear if it is required from all entrants or just finalists.

When it comes to the entrants’ moral rights, the Terms and Conditions could be improved. The terms are silent when it comes to attributing the artists, and there should be a positive undertaking by the competition organiser to attribute.  Also, some of the terms raise potential moral rights issues. For example the term stating that artworks not collected by a certain date may be disposed of at the sole discretion of The Law Society. (It is not helpful that this date is not set out in the Terms and Conditions.) The entrants’ moral rights might also be adversely impacted upon by the term which allows The Law Society to use the artworks for “any purpose”.

Other concerns include that each artist is required to give an indemnity for any breach of intellectual property rights in relation to their artwork. This is too broad and should be limited to an indemnity only where the artist has breached their warranty given under the terms and conditions.

Some of the terms are onerous, for example artists are required to engage in promotional activities for an indefinite time period, potentially anywhere.  Also some of the terms are not best practice including that reserve prices can be adjusted without consultation with the artists and that artists are responsible for insurance cover where the works are under the care, custody and control of The Law Society.  

In order to receive a higher rating:

  • The licences should be limited in time. It is unlikely a competition organiser would need to reproduce entries after a reasonable period of time has passed, for example 5 years.
  • The licences should be limited in purpose. In our view these licences should be clearly restricted to non-commercial use for the purpose of promotion/publicity of the competition.
  • There should be a requirement that artists be credited at the exhibition and where reasonable whenever their work is used. It should be stated that the artist’s prior written consent be sought for any proposed treatment of their entries.  The date by which uncollected artwork may be disposed of by The Law Society should amount to a reasonable opportunity for artists to collect their work. 
  • The terms and conditions should be made clearer. It should be expressly stated that the licences are non-exclusive.  (A non-exclusive licence means an entrant can enter the same artwork into other competitions and permit other competition organisers to use the artwork.)  There should be a positive affirmation that the artists will remain the copyright owners of their respective artworks. It should be  clarified who is required to grant licences – for a higher rating the licences should be from finalists not all entrants. 

Overall, the terms and conditions are not what we would call “artist/copyright friendly” and are disappointing particularly given The Law Society represents a membership of people charged with upholding people’s rights.

Further information

Please email us at artslaw@artslaw.com.au to tell us about any competitions or prizes you think we should check. 

See more about Arts Law's campaign to improve competition terms and conditions in the Prizes and Competitions section.

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