Entertainment Weekly took a GIANT SHIT all over the very concept of writing fiction of any sort, let alone fanfiction. “Submit your best fanfic” they say. From the terms and conditions: “Entries become sole property of Sponsor and none will be acknowledged or returned.” To quote Rachael Acks:
“if you EVER see anything that says anyone other than you becomes the sole owner of your writing, unless it comes with a fucking enormous check (and it better be HUGE), you say NO.
In non-abusive contracts, it’s all about the assignment of extremely specific rights (eg: first world electronic rights) with rights not negotiated still remaining with the writer. The writer still retains copyright. You as the writer still own the story; you are negotiating with the publisher for their use of it.”
It’s worth reading the rest of her post, it’s short. This is an abusive contract so bad the people who proposed it should be fired and never let near the publishing industry again. Yeah, I know, “It’s just fanfic”, right? No, screw that. It’s not about the content. No contract offered by a professional publisher should ever contain such a ridiculous rights-grab unless both parties are very aware what is going on, and there is a big payout. This is pure exploitation, and the callous indifference it requires to offer such a contract to excited new writers is disgusting. Anyone with a shred of professional integrity or self-respect would have stopped this dead in its tracks on principle.
At the very least, the person who approved this has a lot of answer for, and a hell of an apology to make. This sort of contempt of the rights of writers shows a contempt for fiction in its entirety.
EW’s editor is Henry Goldblatt, on facebook and twitter. Does he know what’s happening at his magazine?