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Huff/Post50 & AARP Memoir Contest

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James D. Macdonald

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/...goback=.gde_45166_member_5821320821670453249#!

This looks like a pretty severe rights-grab:

BY SUBMITTING THE ORIGINAL ENTRY, THE ENTRANT REPRESENTS AND WARRANTS THAT (S)HE HAS ALL RIGHT, TITLE AND INTEREST NECESSARY TO GRANT THE SPONSORS THE PERPETUAL, WORLDWIDE, IRREVOCABLE AND UNRESTRICTED RIGHT AND LICENSE TO ADAPT, PUBLISH, USE, EDIT, AND/OR MODIFY SUCH ENTRY IN ANY WAY AND POST THE ORIGINAL ENTRY ON THE INTERNET OR USE THE ORIGINAL ENTRY IN ANY OTHER WAY AND AGREES TO INDEMNIFY AND HOLD SPONSORS HARMLESS FROM ANY CLAIMS TO THE CONTRARY.
 

victoriastrauss

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Whoa.

There's also this:
Approximate Retail Value of Grand Prize Prize is not transferable and no substitution may be made, except by the Sponsors, who reserve the right to substitute a prize with another prize of equal or greater value if the prize or portion of the prize is not available for any reason as determined by the Sponsors in their sole discretion.
So the prize may not be the prize.

And this (my bolding):
The potential Finalists and/or potential Grand Prize Winner may be subject to a background check (including, without limitation, civil and criminal court records and police reports) to be conducted by or on behalf of Sponsors. The Sponsors reserve the right in their sole discretion to disqualify any Entry if the results of such background check or interview reveals that the entrant and/or the person that was nominated is either not eligible to participate in the Contest or if the Sponsors determine, in their sole discretion, that participation of entrant might reflect negatively on Sponsors or S&S or any of their related or affiliated companies, employees, or affiliates, or if the Entry contains false, deceptive or incomplete information. Failure to agree to a background check will result in disqualification.
I'm guessing this is the James Frey Effect, and you can kind of see why the sponsors would want to do this to protect themselves against something similar. But it's still pretty intrusive, and I'll bet a lot of people entering this contest will skim right over it (if they read through the guidelines at all).

- Victoria
 

mrsmig

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They'll get thousands. There are people who are so desperate to tell their stories that they will skim right past that clause without reading it, or read it without understanding it and without researching the implications.
 

Pushingfordream

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They'll get thousands. There are people who are so desperate to tell their stories that they will skim right past that clause without reading it, or read it without understanding it and without researching the implications.

This saddens me.
 

NinjaFingers

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Ah, yes. The classic rights grab/cheap content scam. Even very reputable people do this (The National Geographic does it with their photo contests, which is the only reason I've never entered one - they always offer such nice prizes, but if I wouldn't do it with my writing...)

And "modify in any way" is really disconcerting. Sadly, again, this is very common, and commonly done by otherwise highly reputable organizations including many major newspapers. It's become industry standard.
 

James D. Macdonald

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The potential Finalists and/or potential Grand Prize Winner may be subject to a background check (including, without limitation, civil and criminal court records and police reports) to be conducted by or on behalf of Sponsors.
It strikes me that everyone who submits is a "potential" finalist.
 

victoriastrauss

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To be fair: I think it's highly unlikely that the sponsors actually want to grab those rights and do something nefarious with them (such as--the writer's perennial fear--publishing your work under someone else's name). I think it's probably intended primarily to allow them to conduct the contest and publicize it online.

But...if that's the case, the wording should specifically limit their ability to use original entries to the contest itself. It's bad, greedy, sloppy wording, and completely unnecessary for the purposes of the contest.

- Victoria
 

all4you33

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Sadly, the age group to which this is marketed is one of the most trusting and ill-informed about publishing to begin with. So there will be thousands of entries.

Wow. What a sweeping, inaccurate assessment. People over 50 are no more less knowledgeable about publishing than any other age group.
Although the terms of the HuffPo contract are very strict, the winner of this contest will be sitting pretty.
 

Maryn

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Wow. What a sweeping, inaccurate assessment. People over 50 are no more less knowledgeable about publishing than any other age group.
Although the terms of the HuffPo contract are very strict, the winner of this contest will be sitting pretty.
I respectfully disagree. Older adults and teens seem, as large groups, to be the least informed about publishing, although of course many individuals within those groups know plenty and share it willingly.

The young ones simply lack both life and business experience. They're also gullible.

In my experience, many people my age and older took up writing at or near retirement. Their knowledge of how the industry works is very like that of teenagers, for part of the same reason: they lack the business experience in this field and don't know how to get it. Despite huge strides forward, this is more often true of older women than men.

Worse, they're too often trusting of statements made on websites or in advertisements ("They can't say it if it isn't true." Which they can, and just did.) coming from spokesmen who appear to be warm, fuzzy, and writer-friendly.

They'd research a new refrigerator better than they do potential markets, agents, or publishers. That's a field they know about.

I've been in a critique group for a very long time. Over the years, most of the members have been women. Too many have come to us after having been fleeced or otherwise taken advantage of by unscrupulous vanity presses and self-publishing schemes which separate writer from both money and rights to her work. Some were writing checks to those businesses over our protests and explanations.

So, while there are indeed many savvy older writers, there are far more who are newly hatched and fluffy, so new to it they don't know predators even exist.

Maryn, feeling every year, especially in the knees today
 

all4you33

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Being a college professor, I can tell you my students, young writers in their 20's and 30's, are clueless about how to become published authors. They learn about it through research, trial and error. Age has nothing to do with it.

I read and post on the HuffPost just about every day. It is a highly reputable, innovative and progressive site. I don't have specific stats, but I would guess the readership consists of people who would read and make sure they understand the criteria before blindly submitting their memoirs.
 

Filigree

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I understand your outrage. I know that there are informed and uninformed people in every age group. But based on my own experiences and those of friends and acquaintances, the 55+ age group seems to be a ripe market for all kinds of scams and misrepresented business ventures.

That's why I cringed when I read the pitch for this one: they may mean well, but there are probably going to be a lot of misunderstandings down the line.

ETA: HuffPo, while reputable at some things, has lost a lot more of my respect each time they feature something too obviously anti-science and pro-New Age. I treat them the same as any other news organization: I'll read, but I'll try to get other sources, too.
 
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all4you33

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I guess I am confused how a contest sponsored by HuffPost, Simon and Shuster, AOL,
and AARP could in any way be considered a scam. They are some of the best known organizations in the world. What could they possibly gain by trying to "fool" mature adults?

Ariana Huffington is a genuis who has revolutionized the delivery of nonfiction writing and storytelling. And because HP is an amalgamation of stories from a variety of sources, there is something for everyone. I am delighted she has developed this competition, and only wish my memoir was ripe and ready to go.
 

Filigree

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Because the wording of the contest rules is sloppy and vague. I doubt it is an outright scam, but it could lead to questions about rights and Fair Use later.

I like HuffPo, I like Ariana. But I don't give either of them a pass on criticism.

ETA: I've listed my issues with HuffPo. S&S has joined the subsidy-vanity 'author services' bandwagon, has it not? Services that focus a lot of their marketing toward seniors? AOL, while some of my friends are still on it, became a joke in the tech field ten years ago. (I have seen AOL members threaten to have someone 'banned from the internet'.) Given AARP's political shenanigans over the last decade, I am not sure I'll join them if I live long enough to be eligible. So, yes, I have concerns about this contest.
 
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aruna

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I respectfully disagree. Older adults and teens seem, as large groups, to be the least informed about publishing, although of course many individuals within those groups know plenty and share it willingly.

y

Maryn, as an almost-retiree I can confirm that I am extremely trusting. May be due to having grown up in a kinder, gentler age among the kind of folk who would never dream of ripping off anyone else.

I also have no business sense whatsoever. However, this is not due to my age but again, to my specific personality type: in Briggs Meyer terms, INFP. As proof of this I have to admit that I posted about this contest in the Memoir section of AW a while ago:http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=282564

Perhaps that post can be ported to this thread. deleted. I wouldn't like anyone to be get into a bad contract. Though I am sure that if I were American I might have been tempted to enter, just for the fun of it: I have several unpublished memoirs, form different stages of my life, available.
 
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April Days

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I understand your outrage. I know that there are informed and uninformed people in every age group. But based on my own experiences and those of friends and acquaintances, the 55+ age group seems to be a ripe market for all kinds of scams and misrepresented business ventures.

I was going to post a long response to this, but I have to run out and wire some money to Nigeria. Trust me, I'm going to make out HUGE on this deal.
 

victoriastrauss

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What Jim Said: this is not a scam. It's a publicity stunt--excuse me, a competition where the terms are weighted much too heavily in favor of the sponsor.

Big, reputable organizations often have the crappiest terms when they undertake ventures like this. Why? Because they can. Because of who and what they are. They know that many people will trample on their good sense in their zeal to win a golden ticket.

I'm going to do a blog post on this in early January, laying out the bad language and why it's a problem.

- Victoria
 

all4you33

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The part I am having a problem with is the notion Huffpost, AOL, et al somehow need the writer, rather than the other way around. It is their game, their rules. I like that they have rigorous standards.

This contest designed for mature writers is pretty rare from what I can tell. I applaud HP for reaching out. And, if for some reason, the winner doesn't like the contract terms, you know what the sponsors will say? "Next."
 

nkkingston

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I don't think it's the background check that's bothering people so much as this:

GRANT THE SPONSORS THE PERPETUAL, WORLDWIDE, IRREVOCABLE AND UNRESTRICTED RIGHT AND LICENSE TO ADAPT, PUBLISH, USE, EDIT, AND/OR MODIFY SUCH ENTRY IN ANY WAY AND POST THE ORIGINAL ENTRY ON THE INTERNET OR USE THE ORIGINAL ENTRY IN ANY OTHER WAY AND AGREES TO INDEMNIFY AND HOLD SPONSORS HARMLESS FROM ANY CLAIMS TO THE CONTRARY

A rights grab isn't the same as rigorous standards. It's the opposite: they're claiming rights over everything that's submitted, from beautifully written novels to barely literate nonsense. And they've claimed those rights forever, to do everything, everywhere. And it doesn't matter if you win, or if you turn down the contract because that's not the contract, that's the terms you agreed to by pressing send.

I wouldn't give a publisher those rights, so I sure as hell wouldn't give a competition I might not even win those rights. Yes, they're very unlikely to exercise them, but again, I wouldn't sign rights over to a publisher if they weren't going to exercise them, so why should I sign them over to a competition?

I'm sad at how often it's the biggest competitions that have the worst terms. They know perfectly well they're bad terms, too, but they know that won't put people off submitting. Smaller competitions have to be more reasonable in order to get decent submissions. It's not like AOL etc are lacking in lawyers to get a better T&Cs drawn up.
 

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