Log in

Recent Entries Friends Archive Profile Tags Jeamland
I suppose it was only a matter of time:
Here at SFX magazine we know that everybody has a story inside them. So if you're a previously unpublished author, send your words to us for entry in our inaugural writing competition! Yep, we're planning a book that will be given away with a future issue of SFX, a book called Pulp Idol – see what we did there? It’s a collection we’re publishing in association with the good people at Gollancz.
Hard to object, except to the fact that
All entries will become the property of Future Publishing Limited on its receipt of them and will not be returned. Upon submission of their stories to the address set out at rule 2, entrants irrevocably assign to Future Publishing Limited all intellectual property rights that they have in any part of the world in their stories and waive all their moral rights. Future Publishing Limited reserves the right to edit any story as it sees fit for the purpose of publishing the story in the SFX short story compilation.
Isn't that a bit restrictive? I also can't see anything that prohibits already-published authors from entering (although equally I can't think of a reason why they'd want to enter).

EDIT: Thanks to lyth for pointing out that they've changed the rules.
Isn't that a bit restrictive?

That's a total screw job - you assign them the copyright of your story for the joy of entering their competition?

And the winner just gets published and some contributor copies but no money?

Yeah, that's insane. You aren't even guaranteed to be able to reprint it in a collection of your own work down the line.
I doubt it's enforceable without a signed document, anyway. (I suspect there were no lawyers involved in the drafting of these rules.)
No reason why that sort of contract needs to be signed or be in writing.
Obviously if it came to court the court would interpret any ambiguities against Future, because they wrote the thing, and would tend to be more sympathetic towards the competitors because of the unequal bargaining power, but there doesn't seem to be anything inherently problematic in there from a legal standpoint.
Actually, in the US it does. I had thought UK law was similar. Charlie Petit wrote this in response to a similar clause:

Under US law, that kind of condition is clearly improper. Without a signed writing agreeing to the transfer, no part of a copyright may be transferred, and it must explicitly so state. That includes agreements to publish. So, unless there's a signed entry form that one must include along with the entry that agrees to these conditions—the site is down at the moment, so I can't check—under US law it's improper.

But I'd forgotten he goes on to say:

However, it's under UK law. And, unfortunately, the relevant UK law is not in the Copyright, Patent and Design Act. Instead, there is a specific provision in the "contests of skills" statute that allows for this.
A patent attorney writes: - The relevant UK law won't be in the Copyright, Design & Patents Act, because that's a hodge-podge of provisions altering the Patents Act, the Designs Act, setting up the design right system, altering copyright law (little things like making sure that Peter Pan never goes out of copyright) - all it really did was alter existing legislation. If you want to know anything about copyright, designs or patents, it's the last place to look.

A proto lawyer writes: Anyway, the key fact to remember is that under English law (no such thing as UK law since I'm being pedantic) contracts do not have to be in writing unless they involve the sale of land (there may be other obscure exceptions, but copyright transfer isn't one of them). They can be concluded by nod, wink, handshake or whatever you like - although you may have a pig of a job proving their existence in practice if you haven't got any physical evidence to back you up.
"contests of skills" statute


-- tom
That's _terrible_. You might as well go for a vanity press.
That's worse than a vanity press. At least a vanity doesn't screw you in perpetuity. That's absurd, and I hope their contest is a flop.
And since the moral right is the right to be identified as the author, they don't even have to put your name on it.
the word is: craptacular.
It sounds like it's for people who don't consider themselves authors, but might write a story specifically for this competition, and don't really care what happens to it afterwards because they didn't expect it to go anywhere.

They'll get entries.
Its SFX. They used to steal their spoilers for Babylon 5 from the website of an old friend of mine, I even saw her spoilers first and then the next month the same word for word in their magazine with no credit.

What did you expect from them? They suck.

*Hides copy of magazine under bed* Damn their crack
The problem is, SFX suck, but they're still better than every other mass-market sf magazine out there. It was only when they spoiled me for Serenity that I finally resigned myself to letting my subscription lapse ...
Yeah I remember that. There was no spoiler warning or anything. Bastards.
They did apologise for that one though - it's not something they do routinely.
Well, founding a decent mass-market sf magazine can be your spare-time project. Your other spare-time project. Your other other spare-time project.
entrants irrevocably assign to Future Publishing Limited all intellectual property rights that they have in any part of the world in their stories

Whoa! What this means is that if you submit a story and then ever publish another story with any of the same characters or setting, Future Publishing could sue you.

Or it other words, if Larry Niven had sent one of his early stories into a competition like this, the publisher would have owned the rights to Known Space.
I wasn't entirely certain whether 'the world' in this context meant the world of the story or, you know, the actual world. Maybe it's deliberately vague...
Ah, that may well be what they mean. I'm so used to discussing 'worlds' or 'universes' of sf writers that it's easy to assume that this is how the above phrase was meant. But yes, a more traditional reading in the IP sense means that Future Publishing are referring to international rights.

It's still a bit excessive, but not quite in the "...and your first born unto the fifth generation" sense that I took it to be.

That's legal? Oh dear.

No material other than that which the entrant has created himself
or herself, without using or being influenced by any other material (particularly no
material owned or created by third parties), may be used.

And what is this supposed to mean? 'Using or being influenced by any other material'? Using - so if a character quotes Homer, or Dante, or Churchill, or whoever, is that therefore illegal by the rules of the competition? I shudder to think what these people made of Dan Simmons.
And 'being influenced by'???????????????
I'm assuming that's the 'no fanfic' clause, but it's a bit poorly worded, yes, not least because it's arguable that everything is influenced by something, and that therefore all entries would be immediately ddisqualified. :)
I think the fact that the paragraph starts "No fan fiction." means that the rest is just an elaboration of that. The actual fine print below specifies that what they really mean is "nothing that would lead to our being sued for infringement of somebody else's IP".
There are many things I could say, but I'll refrain.

I think the obvious retaliation is to flood them with entries which are classic SF works and see how long it takes them to weed them out.
(possibly using just those with expired copyright?)
I like the way you think. But even if there were lots of famous sf that's out of copyright (lasts ~70 years after author's death, so not very much), there's also a clause in the rules under which "Stories must be original work, and must not have previously been published in any form".

I also note they're looking for stories of between 1000-2000 words: crazily restrictive. I know prejudgment is bad and wrong, but this is going to be a *really* bad book.
[pred] So, want to review it for Strange Horizons? [/pred]
It depends how much stamina I have to read short fiction at that point.....
Actually, I think the 1,000-2,000 word limit is what comes closest to justifying their ludicrously restrictive stance on copyright - it's more like a demo (or indeed a competition entry) than a proper standup story. The argument would go like this - you assign copyright happily when you complete the tie-break phrase "I like baked beans because..." in 25 words or less. You assign copyright more or less happily when you pick the 101st Greatest British Cartoon of the 1990's Ever to complete the Sun's list and win the top 100 on DVD, and justify your choice in 100 words or less. And 1,000 words isn't really all that much longer...
Of course this is bollocks - I'd guess, though I have no knowledge, that a well written ultra-short story would be more financially viable than almost any other form of short fiction as it has more potential markets.
That's an excellent plan.
Hehe that is indeed an excellent plan.
That's utterly appalling - to waive all rights to not only the single story, but potentially the characters/universe associated with it and apparently waive the moral right to assert yourself as the author?

I'm sure they'll get entries, even so, but it's kind of depressing...
It's been badly written, but the writers in rec.arts.sf.composition generally agree that SFX meant to say "entrants irrevocably assign to Future Publishing Limited all intellectual property rights that they have in their stories in any part of the world", and screwed up the sentence.

Let's hope it wasn't written by whoever is going to judge the quality of the entrants' writing.
Erk. Well, I guess I won't be entering that, then.

Why on earth are they preventing people from resubmitting non-winning stories elsewhere - stories they aren't even going to use themselves?
Because clearly they're already planning to rip off all the contestants, not just the ones who "win."
New conspiracy theory: someone at SFX wants to write a blockbusting film/TV series/series of books and retire early, but they have no ideas of their own...
(Deleted comment)
Odd. I wrote features and reviews for them on a reasonably regular basis in the mid-90s, but never signed any forms. The reviews editor was called Anthony, as I recall.
(Deleted comment)
Anthony was a bit of an oddball, but at least he was prepared to carry features/reviews relating to films made before The Phantom Menace. The folks in charge now often leave the impression they believe movie sf began with Star Wars: A New Hope and that there were just a couple of entries from Steven Spielberg until George Lucas stumbled back behind the camera. I just thumbed through the January issue and, other than a short article on old xmas annuals (all tv spin-offs), the only indication that sf and fantasy also comes in text form is Dave Langford's column (a list of 2005's deceased authors) and six pages of book reviews (at least half of which relate to films and tv shows).
All entries will become the property of Future Publishing Limited

This Magazine. Bunch of Arsecandles. That is all.
W H Smith ran a similar competition a few years ago. The sample chapter had to be ridiculously short - 1000 words, and the synopsis 500. In my opinion, it is very nearly the equivalent of sending in a postcard to win something.
I would say the limit is understandable if you are going to receive thousands of pieces of badly written crap to sift through - which is what I suspect will happen. Sadly, I think we are going to see a lot more of this sort of thing - Richard and Judy, for example, have been running a 'ghost writing' competition on the back of the success of that 'Gem Squash Tokoloshe'(???) story. Some one I know from my MA course (who dropped out, as it happens) got through to a second round on that. She used to go to one of my writing groups, but stopped attending. I think she entered the competition because she is so unsure about her writing competence, and I would suspect that there are lots of people like her.
It's almost tempting to knock out a cheap Cory-lite story about a world of restrictive copyrights.
It is far, far more tempting to write a computer program to knock out an infinite number of cheap Cory-lite stories about a world of restrictive copyrights.

SRSLY (http://dev.null.org/dadaengine/).

-- tom
Fortunately, they've changed that rule now - see here.