Alex Gazzola’s excellent Mistakes Writers Make blog commented last week about a competition Vogue are running, for journalists under 25. And the classic copyright clause that all writers should be aware of pops up in the terms and conditions. Rule 3 states “Copyright of all entries belongs to Conde Nast Publications Ltd.”
Chatting about this to writer friends the other day, one of them commented, “Yes, but the winner gets £1,000 and the runner up wins £500.” This is correct. They do. And if you’re happy to sell the copyright in the two 800-word articles and three 200-word pitches you have to produce for that much money, then that’s your decision.
However, the rule wasn’t saying that the winners would be selling their copyright. The rule says that the copyright in EVERY entry rests with Conde Nast Publications Ltd, not just the top two. So, by simply entering this competition you are handing over the copyright in your 800-word articles and 200-word pitches to Conde Nast. You don’t have to win to lose your copyright. You just have to enter.
Once you’ve submitted your entry you won’t be able to do anything else with it without getting permission from the copyright holder: Conde Nast. You can’t send them to any other publications. You can’t even put them on your own blog or website.
This is why it is so important to read all the rules of a competition. Competition rules are a contract, so it’s vital that you understand their implications. If there are any terms or conditions you don’t understand then get in touch with the competition organisers. Seek clarification. A competition organiser can impose whatever terms and conditions they like - it’s their competition, after all. (Whether Vogue really need copyright in every entry is another matter.) But it is the entrant’s responsibility to ensure they are fully aware of the rights they are granting when submitting an entry into a competition.