Heather M. O’Connor.
I recently stumbled across a contest for writers and artists, run by a well-known government-funded organization. The topic was intriguing. So were the $500 prize and the no-fee entry. Until I read the rules.
“By entering this Contest and submitting an entry, you grant to Sponsors the right use to any material related to your entry for use in any and all manner, format, or media whether now known or hereafter devised (which use may include without limitation, editing, reformatting, modifying, publishing, posting, distributing, displaying, and transmitting for print, audio, visual, digital, or broadcast media and the like), for any purpose, including without limitation, the Contest and advertising Sponsors or Sponsors’ products, services and organization.”
Hold the phone.
If I entered, I’d surrender ALL RIGHTS to my work. In perpetuity. Contest organizers and even their sponsors could publish my story even if I didn’t win. They could reformat it, modify it, post it or publish it anywhere and as often as they wished.
And remember. This rule doesn’t just apply to the winners. It applies to EVERYONE who enters.
This is the second such contest I’ve seen recently. The other was the Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) nature photography contest. Again, ALL entrants (not just winners) must agree to grant:
“…to the ROM a royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, transferrable, non-exclusive license to use, reproduce, modify, publish, create derivative works from, and display his/her wildlife photo (the “Work”), in whole or in part, on a worldwide basis, and to incorporate it into other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed, including for promotional or marketing purposes; in connection with the Contest.“
The Canadian literary magazine Geist, on the other hand, makes a more modest and reasonable rights request:
All publication rights for non-winning entries are retained by the entrants.”
That’s more like it. So what am I giving up?
- First serial rights. That’s one-time publication in their magazine, then the rights are mine again. That’s fair.
- Non-exclusive electronic rights. They can publish it online forever, but it’s still mine.
And there’s none of this “waiving of all rights in perpetuity” nonsense.
Always read the rules when you enter a contest. Then ask yourself the following questions:
What rights am I giving away?
Publication rights can be for a country or a language, (e.g., Canadian, European, world, French language.) They can cover a variety of formats: print and online, audio and visual, or “all manner, format, or media whether now known or hereafter devised.”
Will I ever need the rights again?
I might if I want to publish that story in an anthology, or include it in a novel.
When you enter a contest, verify the rights you’re signing away. Even trustworthy organizations can include unfair conditions.
Did you know…
There are plenty of places, in print and online, to find contest listings. Here are a few you might like:
- The Canadian Writers’ Contest Calendar is published annually, with updates on their website
- The Canadian Authors Association also maintains a list of contest links, including opportunities for youth
- Literistic delivers contest deadlines by email, on a free or paid basis
- or follow Aerogramme Writers’ Studio on Facebook for a nice blend of Canadian and international opportunities
Got a good tip on good contests to enter or your favourite places to find them? Let us know in the comments below.
Learn from two contest insiders when you spend a day with writing contest judges, winners and organizers, Ruth E. Walker and Dorothea Helms. Watch for their always popular Write to Win workshop later this spring.