Monday, February 3, 2014

Competition Rights

Wrekin Writers have just launched their annual Doris Gooderson Short Story competition, and they’re looking for short stories of up to 1200 words, on any theme. Like last year, all profits will be donated to the Severn Hospice. To find out more and download an entry form visit:

Do you read all of the rules when you enter a writing competition? Do you understand their implications? In the Wrekin Writer competition the copyright remains with the writer, although the group reserves the right to publish the winning stories on their website and in their annual anthology. This is quite common and reasonable in my opinion (although I would say that because I’m involved in the organisation of the competition!).

However, not all writing competitions are the same. The Daily Telegraph runs a weekly travel writing competition called Just Back. Item 6 of the competition's terms and conditions begin: “Copyright in all submissions to the competition remains with the respective entrants.” Well, that’s good to know, isn’t it? However, the clause continues, like so: “However, the entrant grants a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual licence to the Telegraph Media Group and The Post Office [the other competition sponsor] to feature any or all of the submissions in any of its publications, its websites and/or promotional material connected with this competition.

You might expect the sponsors of this competition to want to have the right to use the winning entries in print, or online, just like the Wrekin Writer competition. But that’s not what the competition is asking for. They want this right for EVERY entry submitted, irrespective of whether you win or not.

Now, I’m not saying that this is bad, or wrong, or that you should avoid entering the competition - far from it. The reason for mentioning it is because it’s important entrants understand the implications of entering competitions. Once a competition’s results have been announced, many writers, if they don’t win, submit their entry to another competition. But with the Telegraph’s Just back competition things get a little difficult. Many competition rules state that submitted entries can not have been previously published. However, by entering the Telegraph’s competition you’ve given them the right to publish your entry, even if you didn’t win. In practical terms, the Telegraph probably won’t publish your non-winning entry, but they have the right to do so, which means they could.

And should any competition ask for exclusivity, then you wouldn’t be able to offer it in this particular entry because by simply entering the Telegraph’s competition you’ve given them the option to use your material at any time in the future, forever, therefore no-one else can have exclusivity.

Of course, nothing is stopping you from rewriting your submission from a new angle, making it longer, or from a different viewpoint, thus creating a brand new piece of work. And that’s certainly something worth considering. But it’s important to remember that the Telegraph’s competition rules impact upon what you can do with your submission, even if you don’t win.

So, next time you enter a competition - read the rules - and understand the consequences. If you’re interested in entering the Telegraph’s travel competition (it runs on a weekly basis) check out the details - and the terms and conditions! - here:

Good luck!