Legalities of submitting into competition

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  • Legalities of submitting into competition

    I have begun the process of submitting to various competitions for the first time ever. And I would just like to send a note of alarm that the legal text in some of them is strong enough to strip entrants of any protection against copyright infringement. Not just on a competition level but literally by anyone that works with or is associated with the competition.

    Do all of you read the fine print when submitting? Just curious.

    I have negotiated hundreds of contracts in my life, so the legalspeak is not complicated for me. I don't know if it's complicated, skipped over, or ignored by others?

    I did not like the wording in one of the major competitions' indemnity clauses. Even though I know it may have a negative effect on me, I wrote and politely asked if they would consider adjusting it slightly to provide copyright infringement protection to their entrants.

    Most of the other ones that get a reasonably-good mention around here seemed at least acceptable to me. There are still a few second-tier ones that I didn't like their legalspeak and won't be entering.

  • #2
    Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

    Yes, I read contracts in full. Most are a risk vs reward assessment and not too troublesome. Other more questionable contracts I would avoid.

    I have worked with contracts in the past and know there is language one should carefully consider and fully understand, because at some point it might likely come back and do some damage.

    You either clarify the statement or ask for it to be removed entirely.

    It is unlikely they will adjust this "general" contract for one writer. There is a reason they want that language to remain.

    Good luck!
    FA4
    "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,- Pablo Picasso

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    • #3
      Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

      finalact, really good that you read it all.

      I did get a few private messages from people asking for my analysis of the competitions' terms.

      Want to say upfront that I'm not a lawyer. I just work with contracts (and even minutiae within them).

      Not sure that it's worthwhile to call out specific competitions because I am also entering at the same time. I'm not a litigious person whatsoever, but I am a fan of knowing your rights and being prepared.

      I would recommend that everyone read the fine print and be aware of what they are entering into.

      Here are just some basic guidelines, though. (remember, this is informal advice)

      * Ideas are not copyrightable. So, even without any strong clauses, people can steal your ideas - yeah really.
      * The likelihood of you being able to sue and win for copyright infringement is very low.
      * The likelihood of a top tier competition plagiarizing you is very low. They have a reputation to uphold, and I'm fairly sure that most will do all in their power to keep any strong illegalities from happening.

      With that in mind, I've decided to enter the one top tier competition whose clause I don't like. Simply because I understand to some extent why they have it and also the risk is worth the possible reward.

      I will not be entering any second tier or lower competitions that have strong clauses, and I would highly suggest to read the terms of any middle/low-tier or new competitions before entering.

      Still, the likelihood of you being plagiarized is small. But it's worth retaining your rights until you can (hopefully) sell and produce your work.

      That's a non-professional opinion, so do not take it as formal advice. Read the legalese carefully and make an informed decision.

      I did notice that several competitions go out of their way to make their clauses safe and secure for entrants at both the upper and 2nd tier level, so that entrants retain their copyright rights. I find that really admirable. It clearly shows which ones are making an effort to protect themselves and their entrants at the same time.

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      • #4
        Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

        I am a lawyer and I've entered various contests in the past (without major success). The only clause I would ever be concerned about legally is a first look or right of first refusal option, where the contest actually owns the winning script or a script the writer might be obligated to write during a fellowship. Nicholl and Austin don't do that. Maybe some lesser contests do but I've never heard persistent complaints about them. Anything else is likely CYA boilerplate so that the contest doesn't get sued for crazy reasons down the road by a litigious entrant.

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        • #5
          Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

          JoeBanks, cool thanks for chiming in. The very strong indemnity clauses don't worry you at all?

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          • #6
            Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

            Originally posted by Merrick View Post
            ...Do all of you read the fine print when submitting? Just curious...
            You really have to, or pay your lawyer an arm and a leg to do it for you.

            For instance, I was enthusiastic (as far as possible, these days) about this free-to-enter Wayfarer Six Feet Apart competition.

            I'd assembled the supporting materials they asked for, but still wanted to do all my due diligence. There were a few funny red flags that I won't go into here. Essentially, it warranted a closer look.

            Well, here's the crux: (key points highlighted, but it's all worth a read)

            7. OPTION TO PURCHASE. By entering the Contest, each Entrant agrees to execute an exclusive option to purchase agreement (the "Option to Purchase Agreement-) with Sponsor with respect to their Submission Materials and the Project embodied therein upon being selected as a Winner in order to be eligible to participate in the Six Feet Apart Experiment. By entering into the Contest, Entrant is hereby making an irrevocable offer to Sponsor to enter into the Option to Purchase Agreement, which offer may be accepted by Sponsor at any time prior to August 1, 2020 (the "Option Acceptance Date-) by email notification to Entrant and payment to Entrant of an option fee of $100. The Option to Purchase Agreement shall, amongst other rights, grant to Sponsor the exclusive option (the "Option-) to develop and/or purchase the Submission Materials (including without limitation any screenplay, "proof of concept- treatment and accompanying materials that is part of the Submission Materials) for a period of 12 months commencing on the end of the Option Acceptance Date (the "Option Period-) for a purchase price of $1,000, exercisable upon written notice to Entrant that Sponsor has elected to proceed with production of the applicable Project as part of the Six Feet Apart Experiment. Each Entrant acknowledges and agrees that the chance to participate in the Six Feet Apart Experiment if selected as a Winner, as outlined herein, shall, in addition to any other consideration provided to the Winner (including without limitation the option fee and purchase price), constitute good, valuable, complete and sufficient consideration for Sponsor to secure the Option. Entrants also acknowledge and agree that upon notification of status as a Winner (and prior to being officially named as a Winner and prior to being eligible to participate in the Six Feet Apart Experiment), Entrants must sign and return the Option to Purchase Agreement which shall, amongst other things, give Sponsor certain rights to Entrant's Submission Materials and shall include the purchase price of the Submission Materials, as detailed above.
            See, the problem is that it's not really a contest, but an open submission system with locked-in option, like the Amazon Studios Version 1.0, if you old-timers recall that. Except the money is nowhere near as generous as the AS numbers were.

            So I'm disappointed, but I feel the way all of us do who are trying to get our stuff read and are willing to cut a deal that's generous - but not stupid.

            Lesson 1: These guys have lost themselves a really good script (my intended submission), given they were asking for some unusual 'experimental' themes related to the COVID lock-down and effects on society, etc. Thus, I get to keep my I.P. and pursue more traditional, even if slower-moving, approaches, which leads to...

            Lesson 2: It just shows that there are two real powers-that-be in this battle (I will exclude all the inbetweeners such as reps and consultants): The producers, with all their power and in-house lawyers, and the content providers (we writers) whose stories the producers ultimately lust after because they couldn't write a screenplay if their lives depended on it.

            That is, if we ever learn to be writer-producers, and exercise a lot of wisdom and especially patience, we really don't need any of the wannabee in between us and our final audiences. And in this, I recognize I'm avoiding mention of distributors, marketing, chain owners, and a myriad other inbetweeners who deal with the "final" product, etc.

            So, we can do this ourselves (best, but guaranteed incremental, choice), or go ahead and deal with producers and financiers but that we act as business-like as they do - though hopefully not as conniving and bloodthirsty.

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            • #7
              Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

              catcon, didn't want to rain on your other thread, but I also quickly looked through their terms and was not happy about several points, so I didn't even consider it.

              I'd say half of the competitions I looked through had deal-breaking terms for me.

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              • #8
                Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

                Originally posted by Merrick View Post
                catcon, didn't want to rain on your other thread..
                Please rain on people's parades. You never know if they've missed something, or hadn't yet looked closely enough... even if they actually had some old script locked in a drawer that may only be worth $1000 to them.

                You've not been here long enough, maybe, to grasp my the Amazon Studios references, so let me outline a few differences between their system (in place roughly 2012 to 2018) and this turkey:

                Wayfarer: $100 option
                AS: $10,000 option (a few DDPro'ers got one!)

                Wayfarer: $1,000 purchase price
                AS: $250,000 + some consideration based on the final budget

                There was also a locked-in reading period following submission (30 or 90 days, I forget) with AS, but I didn't even bother to consider whether there was one with Wayfarer.

                But I tell you, a lot of us here thought Amazon was a pretty good deal for new writers!

                Anyway, what triggered me to finally read everything on Wayfarer's site - because most regular contests don't even have such detailed terms except to confirm that they "won't own your script" - was the part about rights clearances. It was almost that "if you mentioned Coke in your script, you'd had to have secured the rights to use it."

                Ridiculous. In a spec script. Nobody worries about stuff like that... except maybe somebody who figures they own a shooting-ready script, for a paltry sum, as soon as you hit 'Submit'!

                Still mad. And this honestly is the last word on it from me.

                Why, it took nearly an HOUR for me to recover, before I thought of another cool marketing track to occupy me for the rest of the day, yesterday!

                It usually doesn't take me that long to get over stuff in this biz.

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                • #9
                  Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

                  This is how I read script contests legalese.


                  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qslcnw-9KbI

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                  • #10
                    Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

                    Also at this stage of my "career" I wouldn't enter many of these contests. But when I was coming up -- I did. And would.


                    Chances you wrote the next Back to the Future vs you have a bad, okay or good script you want to throw at the wall doesn't seem so dire.

                    If I wrote 20 scripts, 18 of them just sit in the drawer doing nothing.

                    Sometimes we act like we have gold when we have fake gold. And even if we have gold and no one buys it -- do we win a prize at the end?

                    Having a movie made seems pretty cool to me. Of course it's set up for them to pay little to you, but aren't they giving 5 filmmakers the chance to make a movie? As I said in previous post -- I didn't read it fully. Obviously the biggest thing is having the right concept and know how to make a film safely during this. This feels very much geared to the 15-25 year old youtube social media stars who are trying to make their own feature film. That's who I feel wayfarer contest is targeting. It's less about writers than filmmakers -- so maybe that's the rub for many of you.

                    Many legit contests where you win -- 1000 bucks as top prize or whatever. So that's better overall for your career?

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                    • #11
                      Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

                      Merrick, I understand your concern about indemnity clauses. The likelihood of trouble is small but grows with any writing success. I worry about the firm I contract with being sued for even a frivolous reason, and the firm giving a call to their usual representation, who has contract lawyers run up their hours at $500 each one. Hey, why not? It is free money. And then they tell me I must pay the bill.

                      If you have legal training you always look at the possible downside.

                      On the other hand, when a good company recognizes the benefit they have in you they will work to protect it.
                      Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 05-26-2020, 04:54 PM. Reason: Formatting

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                      • #12
                        Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

                        jmpowell - Very fair assessment as well. Understand your reasoning, and it's why I decided to submit to one of them despite an aversion to the indemnity.

                        Bono - Not trying to say my material is gold, but there are certainly examples of 1:1 plagiarism out in the world, and it's fair after all the hard work to retain your protection. Being "stripped" of rights has its time and place, but usually when equitable compensation is in place. You know, someone buys the rights to your screenplay to actually produce it and rolls the dice on whether it's gonna hit. Before that, I don't really see the point in signing away rights.

                        What if one of your 20 screenplays gets produced and becomes a hit through some measure of surprise. Everyone will come asking "what else?" A few of those other 19 might be worth *something*, even if they're not all gold.

                        Don't worship your own material, of course. Just things to consider.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

                          I don't know am I going blind or crazy, but I just submitted my screenplay everywhere I intended to. I double checked the few places I was going to skip, and several of their indemnity clauses now state they won't be indemnified against commercial exploitation - essentially leaving it so you retain your copyright protection.

                          Soooooooooo, either I read a few of them poorly the first go or a few of the competitions happened to see this thread and update it?

                          In any case, there are only maybe ~3 competitions in the top or second tier level now that I saw which have in my opinion "too strict" clauses.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

                            My best advice Merrick is start writing the 2nd screenplay and assume all contests don't go well. And then when you're done with script 2 -- you can get good news on script 1--- or if you don't -- doesn't matter -- already got script 2.

                            Take the positive energy and write before you lose it!

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                            • #15
                              Re: Legalities of submitting into competition

                              A bit off topic, Bono. But a solid plan! Thanks for the advice.

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