CNN's policy for citizen journalists in full

13 August 2005

Well at least the broadcaster doesn't want your first-born. Following on from the earlier post about the Chartered Institute of Journalists' complaint about the poor treatment of mobile-phone snappers by news organisations, I ran across the full agreement used by CNN in July for anyone wanting to submit material about the recent hurricanes and it's quite something.

The terms of use read:

Children under age 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's written permission to submit their videos/photos/audio and such permission must accompany the videos/photos/audio or they will not be considered.

Employees (and their immediate families and household members) of CNN and its parent, subsidiaries, divisions, and affiliated entities are not eligible to submit videos/photos/audio.

CNN has the right to edit and/or alter any submission. CNN reserves the right not to use the video at all and/or to use as much or as little of the video as it chooses.

By submitting your videos/photos/audio, for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge, you hereby grant to CNN a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, telecast, rerun, reproduce, use, syndicate, license, print, distribute and otherwise exploit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof, as incorporated in any of CNN's programming or the promotion thereof, in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without making payment to you or any third party. You represent and warrant to CNN that you have the full legal right, power and authority to grant to CNN the license provided for herein, that you own or control the complete exhibition and other rights to the materials you submitted for the purposes contemplated in this license and that neither the materials nor the exercise of the rights granted herein shall infringe upon or violate the right of privacy or right of publicity of, or constitute a libel or slander against, or violate any common law or any other right of, any person or entity. You agree to indemnify, defend and hold harmless CNN, its parent and affiliated companies, its and their licensees, successors and assigns, and each of its and their officers, agents and employees from all liabilities or losses, including, without limitation, reasonable attorneys' fees, arising out of or related to CNN's exercise of the rights granted herein. This license shall be governed by the laws of the State of Georgia.

I love the bit about employees and family not being allowed to submit their pics - is there a prize at stake here? And the demand that anyone submitting needs to be over 18. Recovering legal fees from a minor could be tricky I guess.

I'm not a lawyer but the line about "neither the materials nor the exercise of the rights granted herein" would seem to indicate that, whatever CNN does with this stuff, it's your fault if they get sued. I'd be interested to hear an alternative meaning for this line.

I have seen one contract like this in my working life, and gave it a seriously wide berth. And I don't think it had the "exercise of rights" line in it. If news outlets really want citizen-journalist reports, they are going to have to drop some of those demands.