Prima Civitas Foundation Doesn't Like it's Own Video Contest Rules
Last month I entered the Prima Civitas “I love Michigan” Video Contest. I made sure to read the rules on their site very carefully to make sure I wouldn’t be disqualified. I had done much of my filming last summer, so I just needed some good music. I went the extra step to make sure I was following the rules and I emailed Holly, the contact for the contest. I asked if I could use Creative Commons music in my video. This was her reply:
"Acceptable source video includes sources that are not copyrighted. Participant takes responsibility that all images and soundtracks are not copyrighted material. This means, do NOT use copyrighted music or images - even if they fall under a creative commons. Public domain is acceptable."
They even shared the answer to my question on the contest’s facebook page (but have since removed that status update.) I was a little sad because I knew this would limit what kind of music I could use, but I continued on and found some great resources for public domain music.
When the top 10 videos were announced on their site, I began to watch them. I immediately noticed something about the majority of the videos: They contained copyrighted material. Some of the content was licensed under Creative Commons, but it wasn’t properly credited (thus breaking the copyright)
I emailed holly again to ask about the offending videos mentioning the following issues:
Jonathan D. Uses music from the Avatar soundtrack
Melodi W. uses a lot of old photos from in the video, I am not 100% sure they are in the public domain.
Mike G. Says he got all his photos from sxc.hu, this is a stock image site that sells royalty free images, not copyright free images.
Matthew D. uses music from freeplaymusic.com a music licensing website, not a public domain content website.
Logan C. Uses logos from schools and footage from Chevy
Darryl E. Uses images from all over the internet.
Steven (Holly’s boss) replied to my email with the following response:
Based on the rules developed for this competition, individuals who submitted a video certified that their submissions did not include copyrighted materials. We exercised our best due diligence to ensure that copyrighted materials were not used, but it is ultimately up to the individual who submitted a video to ensure there are in fact no violations.
It should be noted that images, footage, and music that appear to be in violation are not necessarily copyrighted. Many popular images, footage, and music are considered creative commons or part of the public domain. Because of the vast amount of material that fall into these categories it cannot be assumed that a specific item has copyright protection. In fact we have communicated with some individuals who affirmed that the materials they used were in fact part of the public domain, even though they were recognizable media. Based on this information we cannot assume that there is a violation.
This surprised me since it was clear in my previous exchanges with the foundation that Creative Commons content was not allowed in videos. Not only was some of the content Creative Commons, it was content from movies and companies.
So I emailed Steven back and asked the following 4 questions:
Why when I asked if I could use Creative Commons music in my video was I told no but now it seems that you accept that some of the entries have CC music.
Jonathan D’Ambrosio used music from the Avatar soundtrack in his video, Unless he contacted Atlantic Records of the composer James Horner, how is this still allowed?
If the contest rules that you established are not enforced, aren’t they just recommendations?
I received no response and a week later I sent one final email trying to point out that they were not following their own rules that they established for the contest:
On the video contest page it says that the “The top 3 videos based on your votes will be awarded prizes based on the contest rules.” These are the same contest rules that state:
Acceptable source video includes sources that are not copyrighted. Participant takes responsibility that all images and soundtracks are not copyrighted material. This means, do NOT use commercial copyrighted music or images.
Videos must be in the required format adhere to YouTube’s guidelines.
YouTube’s guidelines, which you reference state:
"Respect copyright. Only upload videos that you made or that you are authorized to use. This means don’t upload videos you didn’t make, or use content in your videos that someone else owns the copyright to, such as music tracks, snippets of copyrighted programs, or videos made by other users, without necessary authorizations. Read our Copyright Tips for more information."
one of the conditions and restrictions for your contest states:
"Entrants agree to grant to Sponsor and Organizer an everlasting, royalty-free, assignable, exclusive license to use, utilize, replicate, alter, adapt, modify, publish, broadcast, translate, produce derivative works from, distribute, present, play, sublicense and exercise all copyright and other intellectual property rights with respect to your contribution worldwide and/or to include your contribution in other works in any media now known or later created forever."
a number of the videos that are competing in the contest cannot meet this criteria because they do not themselves own the exclusive license to grant to you.
I doubt that you would allow nudity or profanity to be in the final 10 but why do you look past copyright infringment? As a video creator, I feel like there is a significant difference between my video (I drove up to the UP to film Tahquamenon Falls myself, etc.) and a video that uses images collected through a simple internet search.
I finally got a response from Holly about this email (Steven was out of town). She wrote:
"Thank you for your emails. We held an internal review where we analyzed and discussed your concerns. We have made the determination that there will be no disqualifications.
We are glad that you enjoyed making your video and have promoted the competition. We thank you again for your interest in the competition and hope to see another video from you next year.”
so this is where we stand. The video contest goes on as planned even though the majority of the entries break the rules of the contest itself. The team at the Prima Civitas Foundation, many of whom are attorneys, seem to have no interest in following the rules they established for the contest and seem to not be interested in enforcing copyright.
So if you want to vote for MY video that follows the rules, Vote Here
Disclaimer: I often use copyrighted music in my personal videos that I post online but understand that I am opening myself to repercussions, take-down notices, etc in doing so. In all my professional work I always follow all intellectual property laws.