Dear Miss Snark,
I watched Oprah yesterday to see what her new book was and heard about her essay contest for high school kids. I went to the Oprah site today to check it out (out of curiosity) and read over the application form. At the bottom, both student and parent are asked to sign a waiver giving Harpo Entertainment 100% copyright to anything submitted to use any way they chose.
I was wondering;would that allow Oprah's company to republish these essays in book form and not have to pay these kids anything? That doesn't seem fair to me, especially if some of the essays are from kids who didn't at least win the trip to Chicago.
Also, what if some of the students want to use their essays to apply for college credit or scholarship programs? Would having Harpo own the copyright hold that up in any way? I've already written about this in my blog and was wondering what you think.
This is an example of "works for hire" which essentially this in although the pay is "you win the contest if we pick you".
As a practical matter I can assure you that if you don't win the contest, and you use the essay to apply to the Snark School of International Relations, the copyright police aren't going to hunt you down.
Mostly this is so if they use the essays in the magazine, or on the TV show they don't have to get separate permissions or pay you.
And if she did publish any of them in book form, I'd guess the royalties would go to charity anyway. The accounting on that would be insane.
I pity the poor producers who are reading those essays. I have a feeling my slush pile looks Nobel in comparison.