Each and every week we probably receive five to ten requests from major brands for us to post open calls for submissions to various design competitions.
And we never post any of them.
The reason is, if we put the open call up on the site, it implies that we are endorsing it. But the truth is we would never advise any artist - even those we don’t know - to enter 90% of these competitions.
It’s not that we don’t think that winning a big prize isn’t a good opportunity for a young artist.
Many times we do.
It’s because nine times out of ten, the terms and conditions (i.e. “the fine print”) is so onerous and unfair to every single person who enters, that we would never, in good conscious, suggest that people participate.
The reality is that in almost all open call competitions promoted by brands or major companies, lawyers include language in the Terms and Conditions that strip the artist of any and all rights to their work when they submit it into the competition.
In 90% of these competitions, when you submit your work you have given the brand all rights to it - for free.
Many competitions generate thousands of submissions. And technically, if you read the T’s and C’s, the brands now own all of this work.
Here’s a recent example:
The Italian fashion brand Ellesse just launched a design competition called CREATE TENNIS ART in celebration of their 50th anniversary. The competition has a grand prize of €4,500.
And here’s bullet point #6 in the Terms and Conditions.
6. Ellesse shall own the entire copyright and all other rights in and to all of the entries to the Competition. By entering the Competition, entrants irrevocably grant and assign to Ellesse all rights in their entries and agree specifically to Ellesse’s unrestricted use of the same for Ellesse’s own purposes in all activities including, without limitation, marketing, promotion, distribution and sale worldwide as Ellesse sees fit, without any further payment or acknowledgement to the entrants. All copyright, intellectual property rights and all other proprietary rights whether now known or in the future created shall vest in Ellesse which it shall be solely entitled to register or otherwise protect at its own expense. By entering this Competition, you irrevocably assign to Ellesse all right, title and interest in and to all such intellectual property rights. You will co-operate fully in obtaining such registrations or other protection and shall execute such documents as Ellesse requires in order to give effect to this paragraph.
When we read stuff like this, it absolutely infuriates us. We know why the lawyers do it. To protect their clients.
But if you’re willing to give away all rights to your work simply by entering it into a competition, what value does it have?
For us, the answer is simple.