2 . Ownership of Copyright in Competition Entries

Unless there is an agreement to the contrary, the first owner of copyright in the material (usually the creator) retains those rights. However, an entrant may have assigned copyright in an entry to another party or given them an exclusive license to publish that work

The terms and conditions of entry may require the entrant to grant rights for certain uses of a winning entry. In New Zealand if an employee creates a work in the course of employment, the employer is the owner of the copyright, unless there is an agreement to the contrary. Since the competition organisers do not commission the works , they are not the owners of copyright in the works.

Generally, in deciding what rights to seek from entrants, a competition organiser needs to identify both why the competition is being run, and what are reasonable and legitimate expectations from entrants.

Excessive demands for rights (especially relating to all entries rather than only the winning entries) may deter some people from entering.

Acquisition of actual works or copyright through competitions and exhibitions without payment of normal commercial licence fees is widely considered a “rights grab”. Such use is unethical and can expose all parties to litigation. Furthermore, this practice undermines market values in the arts and is detrimental to organisers’ corporate profile.

It also deters those who value their own work from entering an event, thus often depriving the event of work that is truly among the best. Free publication of images limits entry in further events, inhibits the owner’s ability to sell usage rights or publish it themselves.

We would generally advise an artist or other creator not to enter a competition if a condition of entry was to forfeit or assign copyright to other parties. Unless such a condition applies to only winning entries and the value of return exceeds future benefits such as sales or royalties, such a condition places entrants at a severe disadvantage.

Even where exclusive use of the winning entry is required (e.g. a logo design competition for a business), it is reasonable for the creator to retain copyright for use in his or her portfolio, website and self-promotion

Where the competition is acquisitive, (that is, the organisers claim ownership of winning entries), the prize value should exceed or at least match the value of the acquisition. However, ownership of the artwork or entry does not mean ownership of copyright in that work, unless agreed to the contrary.

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