Hotel Chain Attempts to Trick Photographer Into Granting Rights to Use, Sell and License His Images

A photographer is warning others after an encounter with a Hilton-owned hotel recently, which saw the company try to deceptively obtain the rights to use his images freely, including to sell. The company tried to entice him to allow them to "share" the image, but the fine print revealed it would allow the hotel to use the images for profit any way they wished.

Houston-based wedding photographer Ben Sassani was visiting New York, later posting images he took during a helicopter flight to his Instagram page. Before long, the account of the Conrad New York Midtown hotel, owned by the Hilton group, commented. It said:

@bensassani! We are sharing our favorite NYC views and would love to share this photo on our platforms providing you with credit. If we have your permission, please reply to this comment with #AgreeConrad. Terms of Use: Thank you!

Upon digging a little deeper within the website the hotel had mentioned, Sassani unearthed some disturbing details. Speaking to PetaPixel, he recalled:

After reading the fine print, they essentially would be able to use the photo to profit in any shape or form they’d like (if) once I agree.

By simply responding back to the comment with the hashtag #AgreeConrad, the site reveals a user would be allowing the hotel group to use the image “on the [hotel’s] website or in other marketing, advertising or promotions,” and worse, would mean a user had granted “non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable right” to not only use but also sell the works. Alarming, to say the least.

After missing the comment, the hotel sent Sassani a direct message. He then posted about the hotel’s fine print on his Instagram Stories. The hotel spotted the post and responded. The exchange, provided to Fstoppers by Sassani, went as follows:

PetaPixel also spoke to NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher in order to shed some light. Osterreicher confirms Sassani had reason to be taken aback and that the contract on the hotel’s site also seems to “place all the liability for any improper use by Hilton on the photographer submitting the work.”

A valuable lesson in always reading the small print!

Lead image courtesy Ben Sassani and used with permission. See more of Sassani's work at his website and Instagram

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Frederick Johnson's picture

Hilton is notorious for trying to screw over photographers. It’s happened to me twice at different Hilton properties in different states. During the last fiasco I just simply asked their marketing director, is it standard company procedure to take advantage of professional photographers? Her direct quote was, “Well no not exactly but if we see an opportunity to minimize spending on our marketing promotions, it’s something we take in consideration.” This is how they operate from the top down. It’s really pathetic and they get away with because they have the resources to do it.

Don Risi's picture

The problem isn't with the hotels (or anyone else seeking free use), it's with the wanna-be photographers who are willing to give their work away for free. There are so many of them that big corporations don't have to pay for photography unless they are after something extremely specific. And some of those wanna-bes are pretty good with camera, be it a $5000 DSLR or a phone. The corps don't care. All they care about is that they get the image for free.