In our haste to enter art competitions, art contests, and art shows, we sometimes do not read the fine print, details and the use rights for that art show or art exhibition. Is there a downside to entering some art competitions, even if there is no entry fee? If so, what could some of the negative ramifications be for the artist?

When entering art competitions, whether online or not (the results and post-competition promotion usually ends up online in some digital form anyway) an artist may be giving up some or all of their rights to their art by simply submitting for that competition, whether they win or not! How is this so? Some art competitions, when you read the fine print of the submission rules, will declare that the artist is giving up “their right to any future rights, interests, and copyrights…” Or that the artist is “granting the Organization (event owner) the exclusive right to use…” Or further, that the artist “will not receive monetary compensation for the granting of these rights…”

What does this all mean? It means that you just gave your art away for FREE! Wait, it gets worse! In the case of an art competition where you paid an entry fee, you just paid them for the pleasure of giving your art away for FREE! This type of art competition is worse than any Email Phishing Nigerian Art Scam for an artist!

In this type of scenario, all of the participants who uploaded or sent their artwork to the organization, whether they won or not, may legally lose or abandon any ownership of their art. In some cases, depending on how the rules are written, the artist could, in the future be sued if they were ever to use that art again!

My suggestion to all artists who enter art competitions and art contests whether they are free or not is to:

1.   Read the rules thoroughly and understand the overall consequences of entering that event for them and their art.

2.  If the artist cannot understand the “legalize” in the rules, it probably is not any good for the artist and their art.

3.  If the artist needs clarification of the rules and their rights, contact the Organization’s event administrator and ask them to help. If they are a legitimate sponsor, without an agenda, they will help the artist and they will also put it in writing for the artist too.

4.  Finally, free entry fees are not always a good thing. Remember, nobody does anything for free…ever!

No matter what the compensation or promotional benefits are for winning that art contest, stay away from art competitions where you are giving up your rights, future interests and the copyright to your art. Think long-term, as you are giving up much more than what you are getting. You and your art are worth more than this and there are other ways for you to receive the recognition that you deserve. Just beware of what you are agreeing to before you do it, free entry fees do not mean free!


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