Tuesday, November 20, 2012

More Artist Exploitation

In the past, if you pitched an idea to a studio, they would ask you to sign a release form before pitching.  The form stated that the studio might already be developing a property similar to what you were about to pitch and that you acknowledged this.  The purpose of the form was to prevent the people pitching from launching lawsuits if they felt their ideas had been stolen by the studios.  In truth, at any given moment, studios have multiple properties in development and coincidences do occur.  There were also cases where the release forms allowed studios to rip off ideas without paying for them.

However, the release form made no claims to ownership of the material being pitched.  The pitcher was free to take the material anywhere else.

The world has changed for the worse.  Sony is hiring storyboard artists and visual development artists.  They are not looking for ideas here; they are looking for artists who can draw and develop ideas that Sony will provide.  It is clearly a work-for-hire arrangement.  Yet Sony, in its terms of use portion of the online application for both jobs states this:

7. Submissions
Subject to applicable law and except as otherwise expressly provided in any other agreement that you (or your employer if you are not employed by SPE) may have with SPE with respect to the resources made available on this Site (a “Base Agreement”):
• You agree that any intellectual property or materials, including but not limited to questions, comments, suggestions, ideas, discoveries, plans, notes, drawings, original or creative materials, or other information, provided by you in the form of e-mail or electronic submissions to SPE, or uploads or postings to this Site (“Submissions”), shall become the sole property of SPE to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law and will be considered "works made for hire" or "commissioned works" owned by SPE;
• To the extent that any Submission may not constitute a "work made for hire" or "commissioned work" owned by SPE under applicable law, you hereby irrevocably assign, and agree to assign, to SPE all current and future right, title and interest in any and all such Submissions; and
• SPE shall own exclusive rights, including any and all intellectual property rights, and shall be entitled to the unrestricted use of Submissions for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without acknowledgment or additional compensation to you.
In the event applicable law operates to prevent such assignment described above, or otherwise prevents SPE from becoming the sole owner of any such Submissions, you agree to grant to SPE, and this provision shall be effective as granting to SPE, (with unfettered rights of assignment) a perpetual, worldwide, paid-in-full, nonexclusive right (including any moral rights) and license to make, use, sell, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, communicate to the public, perform and display the Submissions (in whole or in part) worldwide and or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, for the full term of any rights that may exist in any such Submissions.
By making Submissions, you represent that (i) you have full power and authority to make the assignment and license set forth above, (ii) the Submissions do not infringe the intellectual property rights of any third party, and (iii) SPE shall be free and have the right to use, assign, modify, edit, alter, adapt, distribute, dispose, promote, display, and transmit the Submissions, or reproduce them, in whole or in part, without compensation, notification, or additional consent from you or from any third party.

Essentially, the above states that Sony takes ownership of your portfolio material when you apply for the job.  If you are submitting samples of work you have done for other companies, Sony wants you to assign the rights to them. You clearly don't have the authority to do that for work you don't own, so that means that you are not legally allowed to show Sony work you've done for other companies.  Sort of defeats the purpose of a submission portfolio, doesn't it?

What's clearly disturbing though, is that any original work in your portfolio becomes their property.  This does not depend on whether they hire you or not, they get ownership because you applied.

How absurd is this?  It means that legally, you could not take your own work and use it to apply to another company later, as it would now be owned by Sony.  Furthermore, what right does Sony have to take ownership of your work without payment?  And of course, it's not enough that Sony owns it, they list all the ways that they can use and mutilate your work "without compensation, notification, additional consent from you or from any third party."

Sony's lawyers have been overzealous here.  It means that nobody should be applying for these jobs, as you can't show them your work for others and shouldn't show them your personal work.

Undoubtedly, someone will say it's just boilerplate.  Sony would never exercise these rights, they're just trying to protect themselves.  People sign what they have to in order to get work.  But it remains a legal document unless it is successfully challenged in court, and that takes time and money.

Imagine this scenario.  I may hire you, but before you apply, I say you have to sign an I.O.U. for $100,000.  I have no intention of ever collecting.  It's just a formality.  But the fact remains that by applying to work for me, you've given me the right to collect $100,000 from you.  Would you want that hanging over your head?  Would you want to hire a lawyer and go to court if I decide to collect?  Isn't it doubly absurd if I don't hire you and never pay you a nickel but still want the $100,000?

Sony needs to rewrite their terms of use. 

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