This is just a rant…
The link to the rules is at the bottom of this post.
First, none of this is a surprise but it seems to just get worse. I admit it is their contest and they can do whatever they want with it. It is up to the photographer to enter or not! I get that! it just seems they are taking advantage of some photographers with some great photos.
I first noticed several groups over in the facebook area where there are some discussions about the positive merits of the competition. I on the other hand condemn Audubon for the typical photographers loss of rights just by entering a photo and having to pay to do it.
The photographer just by entering a photo gives up ALL rights to that photo with no compensation. This is in the rules, General conditions, paragraph 4. You can find some quality photos all over the internet for next to nothing so why rip off somone that wants to enter?
What appears as new this year (unless I missed it last year.) Is the disqualification for photos that have been subjectively “digitally or otherwise altered beyond standard optimization.” This includes; addition, removal, or alteration (painting over, cloning, or blurring) of anything in the original subject and scene that were photographed". In addition it also includes “AI and machine-learning-based software used for upscaling, sharpening and significant noise reduction” see rules Eligible Photographs.
Just my opinion.