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D&D 5E D&D Beyond Cancels Competition

D&D Beyond has been running an art contest which asked creators to enter D&D-themed portrait frame. DDB got to use any or all of the entries, while the winner and some runners up received some digital content as a prize.

There was a backlash -- and DDB has cancelled the contest.

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Thank you to all of our community for sharing your comments and concerns regarding our anniversary Frame Design Contest.

While we wanted to celebrate fan art as a part of our upcoming anniversary, it's clear that our community disagrees with the way we approached it. We've heard your feedback, and will be pulling the contest.

We will also strive to do better as we continue to look for ways to showcase the passion and creativity of our fellow D&D players and fans in the future. Our team will be taking this as a learning moment, and as encouragement to further educate ourselves in this pursuit.

Your feedback is absolutely instrumental to us, and we are always happy to listen and grow in response to our community's needs and concerns. Thank you all again for giving us the opportunity to review this event, and take the appropriate action.

The company went on to say:

Members of our community raised concerns about the contest’s impact on artists and designers, and the implications of running a contest to create art where only some entrants would receive a prize, and that the prize was exclusively digital material on D&D Beyond. Issues were similarly raised with regards to the contest terms and conditions. Though the entrants would all retain ownership of their design to use in any way they saw fit, including selling, printing, or reproducing, it also granted D&D Beyond rights to use submitted designs in the future. We have listened to these concerns, and in response closed the competition. We’ll be looking at ways we can better uplift our community, while also doing fun community events, in the future.

Competitions where the company in question acquires rights to all entries are generally frowned upon (unless you're WotC).
 
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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey




BookTenTiger

He / Him
I'm confused. Isn't this what a contest is all about?
I think it's different when it comes to art, especially digital art.

If you are in a pie baking contest, and your pie doesn't win, that's it. Sure you don't get your pie back, but you can keep painting that pie yourself.

In this kind of contest, if you don't win, the company gets to keep using your digital art for free. That would be like them selling copies of that pie you baked, and you get none of the profit.

This is especially impactful because many of the people who produce digital art are independently employed and trying to make a living off of it. So when a company created this kind of contest, they are essentially poaching art instead of actually hiring artists. It also means they won't have to hire artists to produce all the free art they just got.

It's icky.

Which is why there was feedback, and why DDB canceled the contest.
 




Norton

Explorer
Cheers for the explanations. For the life of me I couldn't glean the dirty details from what I'd read.

I imagine they could have offered some form of credit and promotion for the non-winning art they selected every time they used it, as well as notifying the artist where and when it would be published. Seems it'd be worth the value in advertising, but I'm not in that game so maybe not.

I have a website that sells a product for gaming coming soon and I had considered running contests for artists to submit their creature designs. The winner gets their design reproduced in several ways, they get paid something, they get blog featured with traffic driven by social media marketing, and they get permanent website credit. Never occurred to me to use the ones I didn't choose but every artist I've contacted was happy to contribute work if I asked them nicely and promised to credit them.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
I think the nuance (from what I gather) is that if you are running a contest in order to showcase new artists... you shouldn't hang on to the art of the artists you don't showcase unless you agree to pay them for it.

If you win or place in the contest are are awarded (or "paid") for the work you did... great! It worked as intended. But if you didn't win, you shouldn't have to lose your art. At the very least D&D Beyond should say in their rules that if any losing art is still property of D&D Beyond, they will not use or display said art. Because if you don't use it, you don't necessarily have to "pay" for it. But if you ARE going to use it in some form or fashion down the line... the artist should be rewarded or paid for it.
 

akr71

Hero
Cheers for the explanations. For the life of me I couldn't glean the dirty details from what I'd read.

I imagine they could have offered some form of credit and promotion for the non-winning art they selected every time they used it, as well as notifying the artist where and when it would be published. Seems it'd be worth the value in advertising, but I'm not in that game so maybe not.

I have a website that sells a product for gaming coming soon and I had considered running contests for artists to submit their creature designs. The winner gets their design reproduced in several ways, they get paid something, they get blog featured with traffic driven by social media marketing, and they get permanent website credit. Never occurred to me to use the ones I didn't choose but every artist I've contacted was happy to contribute work if I asked them nicely and promised to credit them.
I think that is the hook here. You didn't claim to own every submission and were more than happy to credit and promote those submissions you did use.
 

Mercador

Explorer
Why they have to use the contest material? They could simply do a contest without this... This is beyond me (no pun intended).
 




Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
It's predatory behavior that DDB recognized. You can read their own statement as a counterargument.
Nothing predatory about it. People can willingly enter or not. It's a choice on whether the prize and the credit of having your work used is worth it or not. DDB caved in to people shouting about something they don't understand and ruined it for others.
 

"It's predatory behavior that DDB recognized. You can read their own statement as a counterargument."

Or, they recognized that the random wrath of the internet had been directed at them today and backpedaling was better PR than standing their ground, regardless of whether they were right or not.

No way to know which explanation is true. But which seems more likely, that a "predator" had a genuine change of heart or that they decide to spin it?
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
This is literally what happened. Artists in the community chose to not enter the contest, and then also explained to DDB why they weren't entering. DDB listened and pulled the contest.
And in doing so ruined it for the artists who DID want to enter. They whined about it not being what THEY wanted and ruined it for others who were okay with it. Again, not all contests are for all people. You aren't owed the existence of a contest prize that you are willing to accept.
 

Panfilo

Existential Risk
The problem with spec work is that it allows established business interests with a lot of leverage to get free or near-free labor that they then turn a profit on. Fan art is on one side of this line, and though it acts as indirect marketing for a product, it is not drawn for explicit commercial interests or automatically owned by anyone but the artist. Spec work, on the other hand, is used as a means to drive down prices (for art in this case) to nothing by having a lot of talented but unestablished (usually young-skewing) artists do it for "exposure". There's a digital prize package in this case, but I don't need to explain why that's effectively free. I'm glad they took it down.
 

And in doing so ruined it for the artists who DID want to enter. They whined about it not being what THEY wanted and ruined it for others who were okay with it. Again, not all contests are for all people. You aren't owed the existence of a contest prize that you are willing to accept.
As a general rule, if the choice is between allowing artists to keep ownership (EDIT: and full creative control) of their work and not allowing that, I'll support the option that allows artists to keep ownership of their work every time.
 
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