Gee Whiz, People

My apartment complex is having a writing contest this month. In 25o words or less, you must describe “what healthy living means to you in your neighborhood” and submit it with a picture. The entries will be posted on the internet and put up to public vote. After votes are tallied, the top 4 entrants will receive an iPad.

I deleted the newsletter when I got it, but the Fairy GodBoyfriend said, “You should enter this contest. Go win an iPad.”

I’d probably win, right? I have a great picture of a double rainbow over the apartment complex I bet they’d love to have. I could probably come up with something fairly fun and romantic in 250 words…and then have my 3000 Facebook friends vote on them and win. Right?

So I went online. The deadline is March 22nd — cool. And then, because I’m a writer, I went and read the complete rules. (You know, all those rules no one ever reads?) In the fine print, I found this section:

J. By emailing the Submission, each entrant agrees, for zero compensation, to grant to Sponsor all intellectual property rights in the Submission and each of its constituent parts, which rights include, without limitation, the Sponsor’s perpetual worldwide fully-transferable and irrevocable right to publish, modify (and make derivative works of), make available to the public, distribute, display, perform and reproduce the Submission through any and all media or formats, whether now known or hereafter developed, for any purpose, including without limitation, for administering and conducting the Contest or for the marketing, advertising and promotion of Archstone and its products and services. In addition, each entrant warrants that any so called “moral rights” in the Submission have been waived and entrant acknowledges and agrees that Sponsor may use any ideas from any Submission or other submitted materials, whether or not entrant has been awarded a prize in connection with any such Submission or other materials.

WOW. I mean, gee whiz, people. I get what you mean by putting this here, but no author in his or her right mind would EVER sign a contract with this wording. Assuming that said author hasn’t been roofied, he or she will probably see this run the other way…thus perpetuating that “healthy lifestyle” they’re dying to hear all about.

I’m torn now as to whether or not I want to enter. What do you guys think?

[Edited to add: The full contest rules can be found here:]

9 Responses to “Gee Whiz, People”

  1. Lydia Says:

    I like to call that the “we pay $500 for an iPad and it’s a license to steal” clause. NO.

  2. cheryl Says:

    I say no. There’s no telling what they might do with your entry, and you’re certain to feel cheated if they start plastering your work all over the planet — particularly if you don’t win and they use your work! Do they spell out how the entries will be judged and who selects the winner? If the judge isn’t qualified to recognize good work, there’s no guarantee you’ll get chosen to win… and we know how many poor judges of writing there are, given the titles that make the bestseller list these days. But you’d have no legal rights if someone at their corporate HQ looks at your work later and recognizes its worth. I admit that’s the worst-case scenario, but is an iPad worth the risk?

  3. Eric James Stone Says:

    Yes, it’s a stupid rights grab.

    But realistically, it’s 250 words about healthy living in your neighborhood and a picture of a double rainbow in your neighborhood. Let’s say that instead of submitting them to your apartment complex contest, you decided to submit them elsewhere. What’s the likelihood of publication elsewhere? How much money are you likely to get from another market? How much are the derivative rights really worth — is someone going to make a blockbuster movie about healthy living in your neighborhood?

    In other words, how valuable to you are the rights you’d be giving up? My guess is that they’re probably not worth all that much — but they could get you a reasonable chance of winning an iPod.

    And then, win or lose, there’s an article or essay you can write and maybe sell to a paying market, on the subject of ridiculously overlawyered contracts for tiny writing contests.

  4. Sarah Says:

    I think I’d be most worried by the fact that (at least how I read it) they can change it however they want and keep your name on it. You’d hate it if the sentence “healthy living am good good I hate the Swedish” was being published with your byline.

  5. Christine Amsden Says:

    I read the caveat first, and my inner author started screaming at me. Then I went back to read the details, and I see why you’re struggling. After all, this is something you can write very quickly, a bit like a college essay. You can refuse to enter on principle, but it won’t change anything.

    What does your gut tell you? In a situation like this, I’d go with my gut. (Note: Different from knee-jerk.)

  6. Princess Alethea Says:

    Sarah: my animosity toward Sweden is well justified. 🙂

    Christine: My gut honestly doesn’t know. It’s telling me to work on my novel so it can have time to think.

    Yeah…I’m making far too big a deal of this. But they made a big deal of it first.

  7. Hel Says:

    This is the way I read it:

    Marketing Guy 1: Hey lets have a contest where we offer a free ipad for the best 250 snippet on healthy living.

    Marketing Guy 2: Okay, why?

    Markety Guy 1: Well, we can use the entry to promote healthy living at our apartment complex.

    Marketing Guy 2: What if we like an entry, but we want to change some things?

    Marketing Guy 1: Well I’m sure the author would be cool with that.

    Marketing Guy 2: Are you sure?

    Marketing Guy 1: Should we ask a lawyer?

    Lawyer: Yeah, what you have here is a contract: potential iPad for 250 word entry. Once that contract is settled, you have to recontract for anything else.

    Marketing Guys: Is there any way around that? I mean, I don’t want to have to go back and forth every time we want to change the puncutation. Two ipods for a comma splice, that kindof thing. I mean, even though I’m in the superior barganing position and can probably bully them into whatever I want, it’s a hassle you know?

    Lawyer: Well, you could get the author to assign all the rights to you: publication, derivative rights, etc.

    Okay this is getting long. Anyway, the short of it is: Marketing Guys want content generation for promotional purposes. That phrase ‘Moral Rights’? That refers to the European idea that what’s most important is having an author’s name attached to his or her own work. My guess is by throwing that clause in there, they’re retaining the right to take bits and pieces of non-winning entries and shoehorning it into one big collage of a piece.

    Basically they’re trying to create a system where instead of treating your entry like a piece of intellectual property, they can treat it as a physical object: you give it to them, and then they can do whatever they want with it.

    But they’re asking for COPYRIGHT rights, not trademark or rights of publicity. So for example, they couldn’t actually use your name to promote Hitler or something insane like that.

    Anyway, that’s how I read it. But I’m not a lawyer yet so take it with a bucket of salt.

  8. Tamara Lowery Says:

    Sounds to me like they basically want marketing copy they can play with and rework however they want it without paying a professional fee for the work. I say give ’em an unabridged dictionary,some darts and a blindfold, then tell them to work with the first 250 words they hit.

  9. Steven Saus Says:

    You’ve probably already decided, but if you haven’t, why not approach them professionally? Something like this:

    ===Wayne & Garth wavy lines===

    “Hi, I’m Alethea!”

    ::marketing folks bow and scrape before the Princess Of All Things::

    “Errr… I’m a professional writer, and while I have some issues with the clauses of your contract for this contest, it looks like you want to have a well-written testimonial. Is that right?”

    ::muffled agreement from prostrated (as opposed to prostated) marketing ppls::

    “Because my professional rate is [LESS THAN COST OF IPAD] for something of that length, but I’ll also work with you to make sure it meets your needs while being truthful. Would you care to see some samples of my work?”

    ===End Wavy Lines===

    Might work…especially if the samples you bring are clean and professional. They’re essentially asking for slush – not from writers, but just from people who live in your complex. I betcha there’s one written in crayon.

    Worst case scenario, you’re out nothing. Hell, they might even say “not now”, but remember you when they need some more ad copy…

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