Oprah stealing from our youth!

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.


Elektra said...

Well, at least we know they won't be choosing any inspiring, vomit-filled stories...

Voix said...

As a high school teacher, I can definitely say that the people reading these essays will need a solid supply of gin to make it through the stacks. Oh, the horror.

At the same time, some high school kids are very articulate, interesting, and talented. More than you'd think will write something fantastic and make a good competition out of this.

Anonymous said...

From this morning's newspaper:

A day after Oprah Winfrey chose Elie Wiesel's "Night" for her book club, a novel so personal that the author calls it a memoir, Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon.com both said that they were making changes to certify Elie Wiesel's "Night" as nonfiction. Barnes & Noble.com is removing the book from its fiction list, while Amazon.com is also changing the categorization of "Night" and revising an editorial description to make clear that it does not consider the book a novel.

Winfrey's last club pick, "A Million Little Pieces," has drawn criticism over allegations that author James Frey had fabricated some parts, including a three-month prison stint that apparently never happened, despite the book being labeled as the author's memoir on addiction.