Contest Submissions and Giving Up Rights

Hi Angela,

I’ve seen wording in contest guidelines that seems to say that all contest submissions, whether they win or not, become the property of the contest sponsor without compensation but the author retains copyright. I never submit to these contests because I want compensation if they use my work but don’t consider me a winner.

Here’s the latest one from Glamour magazine, a market I thought would know better. I copied this from

7. OWNERSHIP AND LICENSE. All entry materials become the property of the Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned. The copyright in any Submission shall remain the property of the entrant, but entry into this Promotion constitutes entrant’s irrevocable and perpetual permission and consent, without further compensation or attribution, to use, reproduce, print, publish, transmit, distribute, sell, perform, adapt, enhance, or display such Submission for any purpose, including but not limited to editorial, advertising, trade, commercial, and publicity purposes by the Sponsor and/or others authorized by the Sponsor, in any and all media now in existence or hereinafter created, throughout the world, for the duration or the copyright in the Submission. Sponsor and/or others authorized by the Sponsor shall have the right to edit, adapt, and modify the Submission.”

As I read it, I give up all rights if I submit to this contest and the copyright is worthless. Do you agree? If I’m right, I can only imagine what Harlan Ellison would say!

Some contests state only the first sentence of clause #7 above. I don’t know if that means they just want to keep the physical entries people mail in because they don’t want the bother of returning them, or if “all entry materials become the property of the Sponsor..” means my work, too.


Janet Hartman
President, Carteret Writers

I’m certain, if push came to shove, a company that ran a contest stating “all entry materials become the property of the Sponsor..” would claim, since you acknowledged your entry as their “property”, that they can do whatever they want with that “property”, including publishing it or selling/reselling it to others.

We never promote these types of contests. I mean, come on. Why on earth does Glamour Magazine need to claim the rights to ALL these essays? How greedy is that?! Harvesting content in this way is, in my opinion, abhorrable.

These contests are not a good deal for writers. Let’s face it. When you enter a rights-grabbing contest like this, not only are you writing for free, but you’re giving your rights away to someone who can profit from it freely with NO compensation to you. Unfortunately, most people don’t read the fine print.

All writers should avoid these types of contests.