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Raise Your Fist And Yell

TowerofPimps(QUICK NOTE: As Rich Johnston points out on Bleeding Cool, whether or not you have issues with this will hinge on your interpretation of the phrase, "in connection with the Interview." He thinks the phrase is limiting. I don't see it that way. Either way, this is too vague and I am posting this as a warning.)

In the autograph area at the 2013 Wizard World Chicago Con was something calling itself The Next Geek Thing.  Didn't seem to be a vendor or anything, people went in the door and came out.  It's some sort of competition.  You pitched your idea to the camera.  It could be for anything -- movies, comic books, video games, whatever.  And they would decide who the winner is.  Winner gets their project developed and $10,000.  (Please note:  this is NOT the same as the uCreate competition from the upper floor.  That is not only very different, but uCreate is affiliated with the fine and upstanding Neal Adams.  You play nice with Mister Adams.  The man might show up outside your house in a backhoe with the letters LART painted on the side if you try anything shifty with creators' rights.)

Ooo, I love competitions.  Although the fact that they were looking for anything struck me as suspicious.  Production companies focus on an area they know.  IP farms grab all they can.

So I decided to play Mickey The Dunce.  I go up, ask a few questions, and they say they aren't sure if the judging will be online or a reality TV show or whatever.  They are recording now, so all I have to do is fill out the Interview Release Form and I can go inside the booth and begin my march to glory.

I picked up the release form and asked if I could have it to read over.  They said sure.  To a garage programmer who sides with the Open Source crowd and can tell you the difference between the GPL, BSD, and Apache licenses and actually understands what all that crap means.

I took the form and headed for the escalator, skimming it as I went.  I was about halfway up the escalator when I said out loud, "You gotta be fucking kidding me!"  From there, I stomped the rest of the way up and out the door.  I needed some food to calm me down.

(I want to point out to anyone and everyone that nobody in a responsible position at the convention had read the document until I brought it to their attention, so this has nothing to do with the convention.  I will NOT stick Wizard with a bum rap, and you shouldn't, either.)

The release form is three paragraphs long (Mister Adams has a copy of it as well).  "The Next Geek Thing (TNGT) is a contest produced by Jerrick Ventures. TNGT is open to all legal residents of the United States or the District Of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older.  Participants understand that if selected for further consideration, participant will complete and execute final production agreements to further participate in the contest.  Contestant understands that grand prize is a $10,000 investment by Jerrick Ventures into a jointly owned Intellectual Property to be managed by the Jerrick Ventures group."

Let me parse that for you:  you will be expected to fill out other contracts with no hint of how many or what the terms of those contracts are, such as exclusivity, length of service, or even surrendering your mortal soul.  For this, you get $10,000 (half of which goes to taxes as this is a contest.  That's a short term gain in the eyes of the law, not wages, and subject to a much higher tax) and no say in what happens.  You create something and they decide to make it a porno?  That's show biz.

That had me burning up.  I went Vesuvius with the second paragraph.  "I hereby grant to Producer, its employees, agents, successors, licensees, and assigns (collectively "you" or "Producer"), the irrevocable right and license to use my voice, name, face, likeness, appearance, actions, activities, career, and experiences in connection with the Interview in any manner you choose and for any purpose you choose, in whole or in part, edited in any manner, by any method and in any medium whatsoever, whether now known or subsequently invented.  I confirm that my contributions to the Production are commissioned by you as works made for hire.  Accordingly, notwithstanding the licenses and permissions granted herein, I, hereby confirm that Producer is the owner of all right, title, and interest in and to the Interview."

My read of this:  any idea you have, they own.  And they own your ass, too.  You and everything you have worked on becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of TNGT.

Third is pretty standard boilerplate.  "I hereby certify that the statements and information in this application form are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief, and I authorize Jerrick Ventures to investigate all statements or other information contained in this application form and any attachments submitted with it, unless I have stated in writing to the contrary."

My read of this:  unless you fill out a legal form detailing what part of your life they can keep their noses out of, they can raid every last corner of your life.

My hands were actually shaking as I read that through.  I tried talking to some friends in the trenches about this (one of whom immediately pulled out his camera and posted a picture of the release form on his Facebook to warn anyone he could), and found at least two of them had already filled out the form and pitched.  And they wanted to know why I looked at them like their families had just died.

TNGT is going to get a lot of people desperate for that big break, for some measure of success to prove to the world they aren't crazy for chasing their dream.  And in doing so, they won't realize the corner they have backed themselves into.

My advice to anyone thinking of signing up for this is, DO NOT DO IT.

And spread the word.

We must look out for each other.

This ran on Bleeding Cool this weekend.

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