If you are thinking of entering a contest – READ THE FINE PRINT

I was going to keep my big alligator mouth shut, but I can’t.  I just can’t.

A call for submissions was recently announced that is an incredible opportunity…  A contest to write a prequel to one of the classic children’s movies from the 1980’s. How cool would that be. Right?

A group of friends and I gathered our kids, and we watched the movie.  We brainstormed, and we were excited.

Afterwards, I breezed over to the web-site and looked up the history of the time period that they provided as a basis for the world-building… and ideas started to flow.

Then I checked the fine print

As I looked over the terms and conditions, a few things popped out at me as HUGE red flags.  I thought, “Hmm, this is a major publishing house, and a big American iconic company.  There’s no way that I can be reading this right.”

So, I did the smart thing, and contacted a lawyer.

I’m so glad I did.  What they told me, horrified my socks off.  Really, it did.  Those suckers flew right across the room.

In a nutshell, whether you win or lose… if you enter the contest they have the right to use your story, and your name to sell it at any time.  Even years later… once you’ve hit it big.  They have a story by you that they own… and there’s not a dern thing you can do about it.

Here’s the worst part — We writers enter these things all the time.  We figure that if we don’t win, we can change the names and the world and sell it as something else, right?

Nope.  You can’t. NEVER. They own your story for eternity.

I’m going to give you the direct quote sent to me. If you re-write the story and publish it with different names and change the world…

“Are you sitting down? – they can sue you for using your own story that they now (and forever) own, and they would 100% win in court.”

That’s insane. And I’m ashamed.  I’m ashamed because I LOVE the brand behind this contest and everything having to do with them.  I grew up with them and I was uber-excited to have a chance at being part of it.

Not anymore.

In respect of the brand that I love so much, I will not tell you who it is.  If you don’t know, then you are not in danger, but if this sounds familiar, and you are considering it, PLEASE take a look at the terms and conditions.

Do I still think this is an incredible opportunity?  Yes, I do.  But you need to weigh the risks against your chances.

If I spend six months creating a masterpiece, and it is not chosen, I deserve the right to revise and use my story elsewhere.  In my mind there is no such thing as a story “Dependant on” the original.  Anything can be revised.

If you are going for it, good luck.  I wish you the best.

Sadly, I will not be any competition.



26 responses to “If you are thinking of entering a contest – READ THE FINE PRINT

  1. Its hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what youre talking about! Thanks

  2. Thanks for performing a fine service, Jennifer!

  3. I hate fine print. That’s where all the sneaky stuff is hidden.

  4. That is extremely interesting. I haven’t entered a contest in a while, but just recently chose a couple that I thought I might enter. I am going to the “fine print” as soon as I leave WordPress. Thanks. Sandy

  5. deeannfrye

    Very eye opening, thanks for posting! I’ll definitely be scrutinizing the fine print from here on out!!

  6. I’m confused why it’s such a problem. If your name is attached then the reputation belongs to you, whether they pay you royalties forever or not. You’re associated with something you like and your name is forever there. But…what’s “winning” in this contest? Cash? I guess I just don’t see it as being as bad as you say, but what do I know. Different perspective. Make it fan fiction instead?

  7. Pingback: Writing Competitions and Opportunities Digest – Edition 3 | Limebird Writers

  8. Shame on Disney! I love their parks, but I’ve long thought that the empire they’ve built isn’t what Walt truly imagined. $95+tax per ticket for one day? Yeah, real family friendly place!! Bottom line is it’s all about the money, and ethics got thrown out the window a long time ago. Thanks for the warning!

  9. Good advice. Sounds like Disney, but I could be wrong.

  10. I can see new up and coming authors getting sucked into things like this. That one golden nugget to grab. It’s good you posted this because I think it’s important, much like warning about vanity presses, that you posted this. Fine print is important. Read it, love it and know it.

  11. I love the warning. I love that you’re protecting yourself and your rights to your work. I don’t love that you’re protecting the perpetrator of an outrageous, predatory “contest.”

    Call a pig a pig. I want to know who this “major, beloved” industry icon is.

  12. I ‘like’ that you’ve mentioned this outrageous injustice, but don’t like the policy of the company putting on this contest. A writer should be able to maintain the rights to a story, especially if the company putting on the contest doesn’t use their work, at that time. Thanks for opening our eyes to this legal loophole.

  13. Don’t give up your rights. It is never worth it. Great post.

  14. Really? Seriously? (Adverbs run rampant when I am upset.)
    Good to know. This is so wrong!

  15. Wow. Thanks for the huge heads up! That’s terrible.

  16. Thanks for this reminder to always read the small print. Over on the Limebird Writers site, I’ve started writing a weekly digest highlighting a few writing competitions and opportunities each week, so I’ve started paying a bit more attention to the terms & conditions, some of them do specifically say that the rights remain with the author, I should probably make a point to only include ones that do say that!

    By the way, I think we can see which one you were talking about from the Related Articles that fed in at the bottom of your post! 😉

  17. I wonder what it is about writers that make us SEEM to be targets for crap like this, and worse.

    Is it because we don’t have a ball-busting union backing us up? Is it because there’s not a globally recognised academic program that states to the world, we’re BLOODY PROFESSIONALS so stop trying to screw us over!!!!

    Is it because we silence ourselves, refuse to name names, when we come across such douchbaggery, and buy into the lie that ‘this (writing/publishing) is a small world’ and we ‘shouldn’t make waves’, just in case word gets out that we’re crybabies and whistle-blowers, and such a ‘reputation’ will ruin our careers/make us unpublishable?

    *goes and feeds the fishies for a moment to calm down*

    You know who doesn’t care about all this? Readers! All they want to do is read good stories. The interwebz has made it possible for every writer (who’s attached to a computer) to deliver these good stories right into their arms.

    Yes it’s fun to win awards, to win contests, to get a publishing contract, and a majority of them are ethical, (not the same as legal!) but ultimately we don’t NEED those things anymore to have a successful career as a writer. The people who run the awards, the contests, the publishing companies need us, writers, as proof of their existence.

    When enough of us understand this, believe this, then perhaps the douchbaggers will have to find another line of work.

    Sadly, I don’t see this coming any time soon, so it behooves us with the knowledge and the courage, to speak out so that all someone will have to do is google ‘douchebaggers’ (generic term for bad contracts, scams, rigged contests, fine print, etc) and all the information they’ll ever need will be at the top of the first page of their search.

    So, rant over … the bottom line is, as you said … read the fine print.

    • Well said, and the ‘fine print’ can be read at the end of Jen’s post in the “Related Articles”. Not too hard to figure out who she is talking about . *wink*.

      Jen, it must be wonderful to have friends with kids to come over and bounce ideas off of. Most writers I know, including myself, find this writing business to be a very solitary career. Kudos to you and your ‘fans’ for putting heads together and brainstorming. Fantastic idea.