Alex Gazzola (http://mistakeswritersmake.blogspot.co.uk) has spotted that the Irish Times are running a travel writing competition (for writers based in Ireland - http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/travel/travel-writer/submit-your-story), and it’s another classic example of why writers should read the terms and conditions of every competition they enter, just so they know what they’re signing up to. I took a look at them and … well, I just started laughing.
But seriously, it’s another example of why writers should scrutinise the terms and conditions before entering, because they affect not just the winner, but EVERY entrant.
Here are some of the key T&Cs that either frustrated me, or made me laugh with incredulity:
“Entries may be published in The Irish Times or on irishtimes.com. All entries will become the property of the promoter. The entrant assigns all intellectual property rights in his or her submission to the promoter and waives all moral rights. The entrant confirms that all entries submitted by him or her will not breach the intellectual property rights of any third party and agrees to indemnify The Irish Times in the event of any claim by any third party that his or her intellectual property rights have been breached by the entrant’s submission. The entrant agrees that the entry submitted by him or her will not contain any defamatory material.”
Right. So entries MAY be published in the paper or on its website. Note the word entries. We’re not just talking about the winners, or those shortlisted. Any entrant’s work may be published.
All entries become the property of the promoter. Again, it’s ALL entries. Not just the winner and shortlisted. EVERY SINGLE SUBMISSION. (Note, the competition is being run in conjunction with Travel Department, who, if I understand this correctly, are the promoter of the competition. So entries become the property of Travel Department, rather than the Irish Times.)
The entrant assigns all intellectual property rights in his or her submission to the promoter and waives all moral rights.
EVERY entrant, not just the winner, hands over their copyright and moral rights in their submission to the promoter.
But it doesn’t get any better for the winner, because further down the list of T&Cs it says:
“As part of the prize the winner will be required to submit a piece for publication in The Irish Times. Publication of this piece is at the discretion of the promoter. The winner assigns all copyright in this piece to the promoter and waives all moral rights. The promoter may amend, modify and alter this piece as it sees fit.”
What does this mean? If your entry wins, you’ll get sent on a trip somewhere, and then you’ll be expected to write it up. The Irish Times might publish your piece about your prize-winning trip … or they might not. It’s at the discretion of the promoter. But you give the promoter the copyright in this piece (as well as the copyright in the piece that won you the opportunity to write this piece). They can do whatever they like with it, without further recompense to you. (As the promoter can with all of the other entrants’ submissions.)
You also waive all moral rights, allowing them to amend it as they see fit. Waiving moral rights means you have no right to object to how your work is used by them in the future. That means they could completely change it … and your name could still appear as the author.
So, in theory, if you get sent on an exotic prize trip to the Corley Service Station on the M6, and you write up a piece about what a wonderful destination this is, they could change it and say it’s the worst place on the planet … and it could still have your name on it (if they publish it). Even though you know that’s not what you originally wrote, everyone who reads and sees your name by it will think that you did write it. And having waived all moral rights you have no right to challenge this. Moral rights are about protecting the integrity of what you have written.
It doesn’t end there:
“The promoter reserves the right to change any aspect of the prize and amend these terms and conditions without notice,”
This phrase means the prize could be enhanced and improved, as could the terms and conditions. It also means things could go the other way. What it means is the T&Cs could change (either positively or detrimentally) after you've made your submission.
“The prize will be subject to any additional terms and conditions of the suppliers of the prize to the promoter.”
Call me old-fashioned, but if I’m signing up to something I want to know exactly what I’m signing up to. What exactly does the promoter of the prize expect the winner to do?
“The promoter is excluded from liability for any loss, damage or injury which might occur to the winner arising from his or her acceptance of the prize.”
Okay, now I REALLY AM worried about what the promoter is expecting the prize winner to do! Injury? I don’t like getting hurt!
Of course, no one is forcing you to enter the competition in the first place. But it’s a reminder that you should fully understand what you’re agreeing to, because the Terms and Conditions apply to everyone who enters, not just the prize winners. Most competitions have a rule stating that submitting an entry means you agree to all of the T&Cs. Don’t think it’s only something to worry about should you win. It’s something to worry about before you even consider picking up your pen.