Those Tempting Contests

I was all fired up, ready to go. I polished up the opening chapter. I started writing a comprehensive synopsis. I was going to write the hook to beat all hooks. I was going to do this, by god! I was going to enter the James Patterson Co-Author Writing Contest for a chance to win the opportunity to co-write a novel with best-selling author James Patterson himself!

I’d run across the contest after signing up for James Patterson’s MasterClass on novel writing. The course is pretty good and I learned a lot. I can recommend it to anyone who’s seeking good information on writing fiction. However, I cannot recommend the contest. “Why not?”, you may ask.

The reason I’m not entering the contest is due to reading item 5: Content, under the official rules. That long paragraph spells out the rights for contestants and for the sponsor. It turns out, as best as I read the legalese, that the writer gets basically nothing beyond a chance to win, and the sponsor gets all rights to all content submitted.

Under Item 5, it says:
“By submitting content to the Competition Sponsor in connection with the Competition (including, without limitation, the book hook, summary, sample chapter and outline described in Section 1 above), you automatically represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, and do hereby grant, to Competition Sponsor the paid-up, royalty- free, perpetual, irrevocable, sublicensable, non-exclusive right and license to (a) use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display any such content (in whole or in part) worldwide and/or to incorporate all or any portion of it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed for the full term of any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights of any party that may exist in such content; and (b) use the content, including without limitation, the right and license to make, use, sell, offer for sale, and import any products and/or services which practice or embody, or are configured for use in practicing, all or any portion of the content.”

It goes on to say:
“Under no circumstances will the Competition Sponsor be required to treat such content as confidential. The Competition Sponsor will be entitled to use the content in accordance with this Section without permission from or compensation to you or any other person. For the avoidance of doubt, the Competition Sponsor will not be liable to you or any other person for any ideas for the Competition Sponsor’s business (including, without limitation, product designs or ideas) derived from the content and will not incur any liability as a result of any similarities to the content that may appear in any future products or services of the Competition Sponsor.”

I’m no lawyer, but that all seems to say that the sponsor (James Patterson) can use any and all material I submit, including ideas, characters, plots, etc. in any way they’d like and without compensation to the creator. This is unacceptable, but sadly all too common in the creative world. Contests are often nothing more than a sneaky way to get cut-rate or free creative work from artists and writers, bypassing the task of actually having to hire and pay someone for their work. Always read the contest rules, especially as regards contents and rights!

I’m a little disappointed that I won’t be entering James Patterson’s contest, but I’d rather hang onto my ideas, characters and plots. I think they’re pretty good and not something to be given away to someone else.

2 thoughts on “Those Tempting Contests

  1. I was just writing the sample chapter for this competition when I thought I should read all the rules. Then I hit these same paragraphs. Read them, reread them. Wondered if I could really be reading it right, because obviously the author would retain all rights to what he submits, if he does not win. Right? Wrong. Truly unbelievable. Shameful practice.

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