I was about to submit one of my designs to H&M’s T-shirt design contest, but like a good little lawyer, I decided to go through and read the terms and conditions of entry. Man, I’m glad that I did. I was all set to enter when I read the following provisions:
3.7 Submission and Ownership of Content:
(a) The website will enable entrants to submit to H&M the form of the original artwork (the “Content”) for display on the website and potential use by H&M in connection with the sale of its products, whether as a Submission in the Contest or otherwise. Upon submission, the Content, whether or not protected by copyright, will be the sole property of H&M. [emphasis mine]
Yes, my dears, that means whether or not your artwork is selected as a winner, once you submit it, it belongs to H&M, meaning that they can use your art however and whenever. Is this legal? Yes, indeed, thanks to the Work For Hire Doctrine. Just read a little further in the contest rules:
b) All results and proceeds from the Content (or in connection with any ancillary, subsidiary, supplemental, promotional or derivative work relating to any version of the Content), and all other materials of every kind whatsoever created by an entrant if relating to any version of the Content (or relating to any ancillary, subsidiary, supplemental promotional or derivative work relating to any versions of the Content) (collectively, “Work”), are a “work made for hire” (as that term is used in the United States Copyright Act) for H&M, prepared as a work specially ordered or commissioned for use by H&M; of which H&M is to be deemed the “author” within the meaning of the United States Copyright Act. All such copyrightable works, as well as all copies of such works in whatever medium fixed or embodied, will be owned exclusively by H&M upon their creation and entrant will have no interest in any of them. Without limiting the foregoing, if any of the Work, or any part or element of the Work, is not deemed to be a “work made for hire” for H&M, the entrant irrevocably and exclusively grants and assigns to H&M (or, if any applicable law prohibits such assignment, entrant hereby grants to H&M an irrevocable royalty-free license of) right, title and interest in and to such Work, throughout the universe, in perpetuity, in any and all media, whether now or hereafter known or devised. [Emphasis mine]
Sorry for all the extra emphasis but I only do it to drive home the point; when you are submitting art to contests such as these, it means your artwork forever becomes property of H&M. So let’s say later on you decide that you want to use your work to design your own line of T-shirts or something else; according to these provisions you can’t do that without permission of H&M because your artwork isn’t yours anymore; it belongs to H&M. Unfortunately, a lot of artists aren’t aware of these provisions within copyright law and things can get so nasty that an artist can get sued for copying his own work.
Crazy, right? It very well may be but it’s totally legal under copyright law. That’s why it’s always important to always read terms and conditions of art contests before you submit your works to competitions like these or enter into such an arrangement with an employer or someone who commissions you.
That said, the only way I could envision myself submitting to these kinds of set-ups is if I am getting paid substantially and deriving massive benefits for giving up rights to my own work. Being somewhat of a control freak, it would drive me crazy to think that I would have to ask someone else’s permission to use one of my own creations.While I’m intrigued by the idea of having my art on t-shirts, I’d rather do it through an agreement that I broker myself.
So, fellow artists, beware! You don’t have to be a lawyer to be cognizant of these things; just be sure to read the rules and conditions and fine print before giving your artwork up.
Click here to read more about H&M’s terms and conditions regarding their “Your Art Here”.