Recently we have been made aware of a number of film “competitions” which offer sizeable prize funds to the winners. Our issue with these competitions is that they often appear to have worrying terms and conditions attached which have significant implications in relation to your rights.
Directors UK's Head of Legal Affairs, Charlotte Brotherton writes:
Film competitions are a great way of getting publicity for your film, or in cases where you submit a pitch, of getting the film funded and made. However it’s important to understand the impact of the terms and conditions than govern a competition. By entering you are accepting the terms and conditions and these create a binding contract between yourself and the organiser even if you don’t read or understand them.
Before submitting your work check carefully the terms of entry and make sure you understand them and most importantly that you can comply with them. You need to be aware that many competitions require the entrant to give the organisers an exclusive copyright licence or full assignment of copyright. This means that by entering the competition you may find yourself giving up your rights in your work to the organisers. In many cases the copyright assignment may only apply to the winning entry, however in some cases Directors UK have seen it apply to all entries. Such a term will mean that even if you don’t win a prize you have lost your copyright and the ability to make any money in other ways from permitting others to distribute, reproduce or make other uses of your work. You have also lost the rights to make a copy of your work for your showreel or portfolio. The competition organiser will have the right to exploit you work, making money from doing so without your further involvement.
Most competition organisers do not need an assignment of copyright. If they ask for this you should question why.
It is more acceptable to give a non-exclusive licence of your copyright, which will allow the organisers to use the copyright, for example, to promote the competition and use the film if it is a winning entry, for a limited time. If the terms and conditions do ask for an assignment or even an exclusive licence try to ensure its limited to winning entries only.
If you are deciding to enter a competition you should always consider if the copyright arrangements are acceptable to you in the circumstances. If you disagree with any of the terms you could try and contact the organisers before you submit our entry however its often different to get the terms changed. If the conditions can not be amended and they are not acceptable to you then you should always be prepared to walk away.