Thursday, January 17, 2013

Writing Contests--Always Read the Fine Print

I’m always on the lookout for a chance to get my writing out there, and I've recently started looking into writing competitions. There’s a lot of great opportunities to be found, but man, you really have to read the fine print.

I got an email yesterday about a short story contest in which the grand prize was a free novel writing course. I had my entry ready to submit, when I took a look at the full terms and conditions of the contest. They contained this clause:

Entrant agrees that Sponsors will have a perpetual and irrevocable license and right to reproduce, use, exhibit, display, adapt, broadcast and distribute and create derivative works of the Entry or Additional Entry in any media now known or later developed, throughout the world. Submission of the Entry and Additional Entry is a waiver of any right to inspect or approve the use of the Entry, as well as a waiver of any “moral rights” or right to royalties or other compensation arising from or related to the use of the Entry or Additional Entry.

The “Additional Entry” mentioned in that blurb is a chunk of my novel in progress, which I would submit for review if my short story made it to the finals. So, this looks to me to be saying that if I submit my short story and novel chunk as part of this contest, I am giving the sponsors the right to do anything they want with it, include adapting it to other mediums, and creating derivative works from my writing.

There was a part of me that wondered if I was overreacting, so I checked out some other writing contests, and read their terms and conditions. Here is a similar blurb to the one above, but this one seems much more reasonable and friendly to the writer:

Winners grant to the sponsor a world-wide, perpetual license to use their stories in any manner related to the contest, without prior notice, approval or additional compensation, including but not limited to the first right to publish the winning stories. Winners otherwise will retain all rights to their stories, and the sponsor's publication of their stories will not limit their use and ability to further market the stories.

Big difference, right? The second one is basically saying that if my story wins, they get the first right to publish the story, and they can use my story as it relates to the contest (putting together a collection of the finalists’ short stories, for example).

I guess what I’m saying is that you should always read the fine print when submitting your work for anything, and if your gut is telling you something’s not right, listen to it. This is probably not news to anyone, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded every once in a while.