The Licensing Journal: Contests for Fans to Create Characters

Articles / January 1, 2010

Cleveland Partner Deb Wilcox authored an article for The Licensing Journal in January 2010 entitled, "Contests for Fans to Create Characters," which discusses "some of the terms pertinent to contests directing participants to submit materials to be used by the sponsor to create a new character for the property" when companies and brand owners hold contests for consumers to create new content for a product.

Wilcox describes the grant of rights necessary in such situations, as material created for such contests can end up being used by the sponsor. "Under US Copyright law," writes Wilcox, "much of this material may be deemed to be copyrightable, and owned by their author, i.e., the contest participant. The material thus needs to be transferred to the contest sponsor…as contained in the rules and other documentation that the participants may be asked to execute."

Furthermore, contest rules may advise participants that their content may be used, modified, adapted, etc., at the discretion of the sponsor. Contest rules may also require representation and warranty that participants have rights to material in their submissions and that all work is original. International rights must also be addressed, in the event that a sponsor wants to use the submission on an international level. New media is also addressed, as sponsors rights may cover all media without further compensation to the participant. Finally, concludes Wilcox, rules may include a provision that the sponsor has no obligation to maintain the information as confidential or propriety, a rule made to "negate any expectation that contest participants may have about the sponsor protecting their ideas."