Monday, November 11, 2013

Top Five Entries Get Prizes, But ALL Entries Become the Property of Kobold Press

I feel like I was just part of a conversation about giving up rights to your work for the opportunity to enter a contest. That's right, its not just the winners that give up the rights to their entries, but the losers too!

What are we referring to? Why, Monarch of the Monsters 4: Enter the Arena! of course!

Listen, I enjoyed Kobold Quarterly when it was published. I personally like Kobold Press, even if they don't put out anything that I would currently use. Still the idea of giving up the rights to you work for the opportunity to enter a contest seems... lame, especially in the RPG publishing world.

The main prize is like "mega-awesome" for the winner - "The winning designer will receive a freelance design commission from Kobold Press, and he or she may be interviewed for the Kobold Press website."  All five finalists get a bunch of PDFs. Every entrant loses the rights to their work.

Maybe it's common contest mumbo jumbo, but if they put out a product based upon these entries and you weren't one of the top five, you just worked for free on (what I'm sure would be) a for profit product.

The prizes are PDFs put out by the awarder of the prizes, so they have no real cost to Kobold Press, so in truth, there is little cost to KP for the opportunity to get a large selection of predesigned monsters for their publishing stable.

Maybe I'm just getting grumpy in my old age. Maybe this is what all of the young folks are doing.

Damn, I may just be an old crotchety fuck these days...


  1. It does seem like giving away work in the hope of acknowledgement. There are some downsides to writing for Steve Jackson Games like I do, but the upside is they either pay me for what I write or refuse it without claiming the rights. Oh, and pay on time, and pay if they re-use it beyond what was originally paid for, as well. :)

    1. It's one thing to work on a community project, or a not for profit project, or helping a friend.

      it's another to give your rights away to a for profit publisher that can now use your work without compensation while earning a profit off of it.

      at least, that's how I see it

    2. Like some people said, it's pretty standard to sign away the rights to contest entries. That doesn't bother me. But really, there are ways to get your stuff published for actual pay, and I think more folks should try that route.

  2. I did a quick check and the RPG Superstar Contest that Paizo has held the last few years states, in the 2013 rules, it says, "All entries become the property of Paizo Publishing, LLC." Kobold press is probably just following in the footsteps of Paizo. You'd have to have a lawyer weigh in on this one (Joe the Wondrous Lawyer - any thoughts?), but it probably keeps someone from claiming an idea was stolen.
    Regardless, Eric, you've quite successfully managed to get us all to pony up some cool ideas with no expectation for copyright, just to share and have fun with for your game and others. I think you just might have the moxy to pull something bigger than Kobold Press and Paizo - when is there going to a Frog God Games (S&W), Goodman Games (DCC), Troll Lord Games (C&C) and Goblinoid Games (LL) Old School Super(Hero) star Contest? Whether entries are the property of the contest or the entrant can be figured out later...

    1. lets see - no entries have been used in a product, for profit our otherwise

      there was talk of using the DCC Occupations entries in a free product but that never got off the ground

      I've been paying contributors to the Unofficial OSR zine (that is in a holding pattern) their "beer money" for work they own and will own and I may never use but they submitted, and if I do use it later, I will pay them beer money yet again

      so, i think you know where you stand here ;)

  3. That's pretty standard for contests that involve submitting ideas. To the best of my knowledge none of the RPG companies who have held such contests have ever used a non-winner's material without compensation (though yes, they could), but the clause is there so if a contestant submitted an idea similar to one they already have in production (but have not yet announced) the contestant isn't tempted to sue over it.

    1. "...the clause is there so if a contestant submitted an idea similar to one they already have in production (but have not yet announced) the contestant isn't tempted to sue over it."

      I believe that's exactly the reason they do it.

  4. I guess it has to be that way otherwise the competition organiser will forever be potentially open to charges from all and sundry that "you stole my idea". Regardless of whether the publisher did or didn't, there are vexatious claimants out there and, after all, if you don't like the terms you don't have to enter.

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  6. Naw, that's ridiculous. Screw that crap.

  7. "All entries become the property of Company X" is a pretty standard condition for this kind of contest. Even when it's little kids drawing pictures for a cereal company or something.

    I'm not sure that makes it right, but it is typical.

  8. Yep. Standard boilerplate legalese to protect the parties offering the contest.

  9. There's absolutely no need for a rights transfer. A non-revocable non-exclusive license for them to use the material would protect them just as well without such a grab.

  10. Having worked for legal journals in the past, and in publishing, I would imagine the reason you relinquish ownership is so you can't later sue them for "stealing" your idea if they ever do anything remotely similar to it down the line. Happens all the time with unsolicited manuscripts and screenplays, which is why nearly every publisher and filmmaker returns them unopened and unread. "Hey, I sent you a book/script 3 years ago about Iraq vets and now you're putting out a product with Iraq vets in it--gimme my money!!!"



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