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4 Elements of an Ethical Art Competition

March 22, 2010

Art Competitions can be a great way to challenge yourself and show your work to a wider, more relevant audience.

However, there is a difference between fair and unfair competitions, and sometimes even reputable organizations can miss the mark.  That’s why it’s important to evaluate each one on its own terms to ensure that your rights are protected and that you understand what is expected of both you and the contest holder.  Be sure to examine the terms of the competition closely and avoid any contests that potentially compromise your rights as an artist.

To help you determine whether a particular contest is worth your time and money, here are 4 elements to look for in an ethical art competition:

1.  Clearly Defined Terms

All contest holders should define all details of the competition in the call for entries, such as the rules, entry fees, list of judges, judging criteria, and intended usage of the artwork.

2.  Statement of Artist’s Rights

In a fair competition, the artist should retain all ownership and rights to the art, and the contest holder may only use or publish the image as defined in the call for entries.

3.  Fair Award Value

All winners should receive an award that is compatible with fair market conditions in exchange for any rights that are transferred to the contest holder.

4.  Insured Artwork

The condition of original artwork should be protected and insured by the contest holder against until it is returned to the artist.

Because every competition is different, you’ll need to decide for yourself which ones are right for you.  Hopefully, these 4 key factors will help you to separate the fair from the unfair and protect yourself from unethical practices.

How do you choose which contests to enter?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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    5 Comments leave one →
    1. March 22, 2010 5:01 PM

      Reminded me a lot of an article I read from Francis Vallejo a minute ago — — along the same lines. While I agree with all of the points I think that in addition to the “fair rates” rule it should be noted that the amount of exposure to be had should be considered as valuable as monetary/tangible prize or more, depending on the venue for exposure.

    2. March 22, 2010 7:44 PM

      About a month ago I was considering entering a contest organised by a very well known, local chocolate shop. The prize was decent, a few thousand bucks that you could spend on either art tuition/courses or at art supply stores.

      But I read the terms and conditions and there was one thing that bothered me. They choose 20 finalists and display the artwork in a gallery show. However, if your piece was chosen as one of those 20, then you hand over all rights over to them, even though there was only going to be one person getting the major prize. So they get 20 pieces of work and only have to reward/pay 1 person.

      They probably don’t use all of those artworks for any future marketing things or anything like that, they don’t seem to be a dodgy company. But I just don’t like the idea of a company taking ownership of my work with there being only a small chance of being compensated for it.

      I don’t know, maybe I’m being a bit petty here.

      • March 23, 2010 1:28 PM

        I don’t think you’re being petty at all.

        As mentioned above, any competition that asks to hand over the rights to your work is not worth entering.

    3. August 23, 2010 10:20 AM

      A practice too common in contests unfortunately. Here’s another big company with poor compensation for rights taken, the Kroger design a reusuable bag contest:
      and this significant line in the rules:
      “In order to be eligible to be awarded any prizes, the selected designers must assign all right, title and interest in and to their designs to Kroger and must be reachable by email.”


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