from the we'll-take-it-from-here,-kids! dept
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards wants to help show youths the power of artistic creation… by taking away those artistic creations irrevocably for the next two years minimum.
Sasha Matthews, 13-year-old cartoonist, was the first to spot this bit of intellectual property land-grabbing late last year in the terms and conditions that must be followed by Scholastic Award entrants.
The student irrevocably grants an assignment transferring to the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, Inc. (“Alliance”) all right, title, and interest (including all copyrights) in and to the submitted work (“Work”), such that the Work, and all rights relating to the Work, shall be the exclusive property of the Alliance, subject to (a) the student’s non-exclusive license, hereby granted, (i) to maintain and make limited display and distribution of a copy of the Work as part of the student’s portfolio solely for purposes of identification and reference to the student’s body of works, and (ii) to submit a copy of the Work for consideration for other scholarships, awards, and recognitions, and (b) such other licenses and authorizations as the Alliance may, in the exercise of its sole discretion, grant to the student upon the student’s written request.
To submit an entry is to capitulate to Scholastic and cede ownership of your creative work. Scholastic points out it’s only for two years, as though that excuses this unneeded clause in the participation terms. There’s no reason Scholastic needs an exclusive license to the creation of others to present artists’ works to others. Setting it up this way controls how the creator gets to use their own work, allowing Scholastic to benefit exclusively from the works of others.
Yes, the contract (so to speak…) sunsets after two years, but even then there are stipulations. Scholastic is still allowed perpetual, royalty-free use of students’ submissions. And this rollback of grabbed rights only comes into play if Scholastic can locate participants after the two-year exclusive license expires.
Alliance will return the Work upon the expiration of the two (2) year period commencing with the date of the national award notification. The Alliance will attempt to notify the student using the contact information provided on the Submission Form, (or, if applicable, such contact information as the Alliance shall have later received), prior to returning and shipping the Work to the home address provided. Students are obligated to notify the Alliance if their address or other contact information changes and will be solely responsible for any non-delivery or loss of, or damage to, the Work that may result from my failure to do so. If Work is returned to the Alliance for reasons including, but not limited to, refusal of delivery or failure to provide forwarding instructions, the student understands and agrees that the Alliance hold my work up to three (3) years from the date of the national award notification. If the Work is not retrieved by the student or on the student’s behalf once the three (3) year period has lapsed, the student understands and agrees that exclusive ownership of the physical Work will transfer to and fully vest in the Alliance automatically and immediately upon the expiration of this period, and that the Alliance, as the owner of the Work will have the right to continue to store, destroy, use or display the physical Work as it may choose in the exercise of its sole discretion. In such event, the student shall, and hereby does, assign to the Alliance and its successors all right, title and interest in and to the physical Work.
Miss the three-year cutoff (possibly through no fault of your own) and the work becomes the sole, indisputable property of Scholastic. Even if the artwork is retrieved in a timely fashion, it still won’t belong solely to the creator but will forever be partially “licensed” to Scholastic for life+70.
The involvement of minors raises further questions about this boilerplate. Minors can’t form contracts so it’s likely Scholastic gets around this by sending participation sheets to educators and parents to obtain signatures, but likely without informing those signing on behalf of students of Scholastic’s IP intentions.
Scholastic responded by saying it’s been super-clear about the terms and conditions. But those reading Scholastic’s tweet will notice the FAQ was published the same day as its cheerily-defensive tweet to Matthews, which means it has only recently been upfront about its two-year copyright claim.
Scholastic’s participation terms aren’t unusual. But that doesn’t make them right. There’s nothing about this sort of contest that demands full control of submitted works. A limited non-exclusive license would allow Scholastic to display creations and use them in promotional material without fear of a participant lawsuit. Or, for that matter, a Creatve Commons license could be applied with the terms set by particpants rather than Scholastic. But Scholastic obviously feels it’s the creators who should give up their rights. The whole thing is ridiculous — especially since it’s standard operating procedure for entities seeking submissions from creators. It only serves to show creators copyright is a handy tool for bigger, more powerful entities but of little use to the creators themselves.
P.S. Matthews drew a little something to keep the pressure on Scholastic to change its submission terms:
— Rumble Comics (@RumbleComics) December 22, 2017