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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

Faolyn

Hero
It's a very clear difference.

Working for free is when you do some work and don't get paid.

A contest is when you work for free and have a very low chance of getting paid.

It's a very clear difference.
A contest is when you submit an entry in the hopes of winning a prize, but the people who gave out the prize don't keep everyone's entries in order to make money from them.
 

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Hussar

Legend
I really have to ask. In what way is not paying for work ever acceptable? And, do the America's Got Talent (or whatever country) people own your likeness in perpetuity after you appear? If someone does an original stand up routine on AGT, do they agree that AGT (and whoever there parent company is) can use those jokes in any other show for perpetuity? I have no idea what the AGT rights agreements look like.
 




TheSword

Legend
It’s a good job we didn’t get this backlash 19 years ago or we would never have gotten to see Eberron.

I though this was a competition to draw a portrait frame? Isn’t that the artistic equivalent of “complete the sentence: I want to work for wizards of them coast because…” in less than 50 words. I mean, how much effort goes into a portrait frame?
 

Hussar

Legend
It’s a good job we didn’t get this backlash 19 years ago or we would never have gotten to see Eberron.

I though this was a competition to draw a portrait frame? Isn’t that the artistic equivalent of “complete the sentence: I want to work for wizards of them coast because…” in less than 50 words. I mean, how much effort goes into a portrait frame?
Again, missing the point.

But, let's boil things down on the Eberron competition. How many submissions did WotC get for that? Other than "lots". How much "exposure" did 99.9% of the entrants get? So, essentially, one person got exposure and a bunch of other people provided free work for WotC.

Just because you got something you like out of the deal doesn't make it justified. Why were those hundreds of other people who did work for WotC not compensated in any way, shape or form? WotC manages to get massive free publicity, generates huge good will (the value of which cannot be underestimated) for the cost of using one entrant and ignoring the rest. And this is considered a good thing?

Hey, here's a thought, how about we have a contest where entrants are payed 15 cents on the word for their entries? IOW, the contest holder, a for-profit company, actually has to pay industry wages for the work they are asking for. Isn't that fair? Why are creative types expected to provide work for free when exactly zero people reading this thread would EVER accept that at their jobs?

Tell you what, we'll have a contest at your office. Whoever is judged the best employee this month gets a 50% bonus. Everyone else doesn't get paid. That's perfectly legal right? Totally justifiable?
 

Gnarlo

Gnome Lover
Supporter
So you can no longer see the real WKRP in Cincinnati, where rock songs of the 1970s were important not just for the jokes in the show, but sometimes the plots of whole episodes. Northern Exposure isn't even available in a bowdlerized form.
Check out the WKRP complete collection from Shout! Factory; they were able to track down and get the rights to about 90% of the music used during the show. There's a few missing ones like Pink Floyd, but they do a pretty good job of finding suitable replacements, and the rest is just soooooo good :)
 

tommybahama

Adventurer
I know! All those people in sweatshops across the world! Why didn't they just not take the job? Everybody has that power, right?

Do you use volunteer play testers? Do you pay them? If not, get off your high horse and stop being hyperbolic and using language that would get others a time out.
 

Ah ha, I think this is the big difference between other contests and "digital art contests."

Usually, in digital art contests, the non-winning work doesn't get exposed to a wider audience, but is still owned by the company holding the contest.

It would be like if on America's Got Talent, they only showed the winners, but everyone else's work could still get used to make money by the company running it.
Can't believe I didn't think to speak on this myself, but this.
 

The Lizard Wizard

Adventurer
These comps have been considered exploitative for a long time, and with good reason.

If you‘re upset about this because you thought it might be a good way to get your foot in the door, maybe consider sending them your portfolio/ resume here
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
This thread is an example for the "should you read a thread before you comment in it?" thread. Based on DDB's boilerplate language in OP, I thought the problem was the content of some / a submissions, not the ownership rights and pay for the submissions.
 



Where there really any pro or semi-pro artists who were going to submit some small portrait frames to a contest in the first place? This seems to have been a contest for amateurs to have some fun designing a fairly simple graphic and potentially win som D&D beyond stuff if they manage to come up with something really cool. But now it's been ruined by a "community" that wants to make everything about money.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
This isnt wotc, dnd beyond isnt owned or administered by wizards, they are paid a lisence by another company.
I am assuming their license with WOTC, which deeply pertains to intellectual property issues, is what's driving this.
 

Hussar

Legend
Where there really any pro or semi-pro artists who were going to submit some small portrait frames to a contest in the first place? This seems to have been a contest for amateurs to have some fun designing a fairly simple graphic and potentially win som D&D beyond stuff if they manage to come up with something really cool. But now it's been ruined by a "community" that wants to make everything about money.
I know, how dare people expect to be paid for their work. Totally unreasonable right?
 

TheSword

Legend
Again, missing the point.

But, let's boil things down on the Eberron competition. How many submissions did WotC get for that? Other than "lots". How much "exposure" did 99.9% of the entrants get? So, essentially, one person got exposure and a bunch of other people provided free work for WotC.

Just because you got something you like out of the deal doesn't make it justified. Why were those hundreds of other people who did work for WotC not compensated in any way, shape or form? WotC manages to get massive free publicity, generates huge good will (the value of which cannot be underestimated) for the cost of using one entrant and ignoring the rest. And this is considered a good thing?

Hey, here's a thought, how about we have a contest where entrants are payed 15 cents on the word for their entries? IOW, the contest holder, a for-profit company, actually has to pay industry wages for the work they are asking for. Isn't that fair? Why are creative types expected to provide work for free when exactly zero people reading this thread would EVER accept that at their jobs?

Tell you what, we'll have a contest at your office. Whoever is judged the best employee this month gets a 50% bonus. Everyone else doesn't get paid. That's perfectly legal right? Totally justifiable?
I just think the amount of effort is relevant.

I believe there were 11,000 entries for the 2002 setting competition. They submitted a 1 page summary. That was narrowed to a few who did a 10 page summary. Who were then narrowed down to 3 who visited WOC offices and fleshed out the project properly.

The reason your employer metaphor doesn’t work in a competition setting is that there is no barrier to entry, no guarantee of quality, and no expectation that a great deal of what you enter will have any value. Would you buy an unlimited number of something for 20 bucks, for something you don’t the quality of, from people you never heard of?

My understanding of the reason the competition runner has ownership of entries in these cases is not necessarily so they can sell them on, but rather that if they later go on to make something that has similarities even coincidental to one of the half complete ideas or concepts they aren’t open to legal challenge. I sue WOC because my 1 page submission has a half formed idea out of context that ends up similar to an encounter in Wild Beyond the Witchlight so I try and make a quick buck. It doesn’t mean they’re profiting off the losing submissions.

[I can see this has been shot down by Morrus earlier. This might make me an arm chair lawyer. However having seen our company do a couple of competitions first hand I know there is pressure and concern from legal teams to ensure competitions don’t end up causing future legal issues. I would flip it and ask if people are aware of competitions of this type where companies have taken losing submissions and profited from them? Is this a real problem or a made up one?]

Incidentally the reason I used my 50 words example earlier was that when I was 20 I entered one of those competitions with Red Bull, a complete-the-sentence style competitions. It had the same language in the terms… that redbull owned the submission and could use it for whatever they liked.
 
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Hussar

Legend
I just think the amount of effort is relevant.

I believe there were 11,000 entries for the 2002 setting competition. They submitted a 1 page summary. That was narrowed to a few who did a 10 page summary. Who were then narrowed down to 3 who visited WOC offices and fleshed out the project properly.

So, 11000 people did unpaid work. I don't care what the quality is. That doesn't matter. WotC asked for the work to be done and they did it. And less than 1 ten thousandth of those people received any compensation. At all. Again, good deal for WotC

The reason your employer metaphor doesn’t work in a competition setting is that there is no barrier to entry, no guarantee of quality, and no expectation that a great deal of what you enter will have any value. Would you buy an unlimited number of something for 20 bucks, for something you don’t the quality of, from people you never heard of?

Nope. I'd actually hire people to do the work. As in, expect the company to foot the bill for interviewing and hiring prospective workers. At the end of the hiring process, which is governed by all sorts of laws and regulations to insure fairness, they hire someone and pay them. What I don't expect is for a company to get thousands of man hours of free labour just so they can get a new product that they are then going to turn around and sell for profit.

My understanding of the reason the competition runner has ownership of entries in these cases is not necessarily so they can sell them on, but rather that if they later go on to make something that has similarities even coincidental to one of the half complete ideas or concepts they aren’t open to legal challenge. I sue WOC because my 1 page submission has a half formed idea out of context that ends up similar to an encounter in Wild Beyond the Witchlight so I try and make a quick buck. It doesn’t mean they’re profiting off the losing submissions.
Yup, it's a complicated issue. One that is entirely resolved by actually HIRING an employee instead of cashing in on free labour.

[I can see this has been shot down by Morrus earlier. This might make me an arm chair lawyer. However having seen our company do a couple of competitions first hand I know there is pressure and concern from legal teams to ensure competitions don’t end up causing future legal issues. I would flip it and ask if people are aware of competitions of this type where companies have taken losing submissions and profited from them? Is this a real problem or a made up one?]

Incidentally the reason I used my 50 words example earlier was that when I was 20 I entered one of those competitions with Red Bull, a complete-the-sentence style competitions. It had the same language in the terms… that redbull owned the submission and could use it for whatever they liked.
Again, all these problems, the need for boilerplate and everything else, vanishes when you treat prospective creatives as an employee, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof, instead of simply using your market position to gain all sorts of free labour.

I mean, how many responses would you, personally, get if you tried to run this contest? How many people would make free graphic images for you if you offered to make it a contest? I'm thinking somewhere around none. The only reason D&D Beyond can do this is because they are a well known company and can leverage that position to gain free labour.

And, let's not mince words here, this is EXACTLY what they are getting - free labour and free marketing. This isn't about "helping some struggling artist get noticed". That's 100% horse pucky. D&D Beyond or any larger company could not give a rats petoot about the "exposure" that someone is getting. That's just the hook they are selling in order to gain free labour.
 

TheSword

Legend
So, 11000 people did unpaid work. I don't care what the quality is. That doesn't matter. WotC asked for the work to be done and they did it. And less than 1 ten thousandth of those people received any compensation. At all. Again, good deal for WotC



Nope. I'd actually hire people to do the work. As in, expect the company to foot the bill for interviewing and hiring prospective workers. At the end of the hiring process, which is governed by all sorts of laws and regulations to insure fairness, they hire someone and pay them. What I don't expect is for a company to get thousands of man hours of free labour just so they can get a new product that they are then going to turn around and sell for profit.


Yup, it's a complicated issue. One that is entirely resolved by actually HIRING an employee instead of cashing in on free labour.


Again, all these problems, the need for boilerplate and everything else, vanishes when you treat prospective creatives as an employee, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof, instead of simply using your market position to gain all sorts of free labour.

I mean, how many responses would you, personally, get if you tried to run this contest? How many people would make free graphic images for you if you offered to make it a contest? I'm thinking somewhere around none. The only reason D&D Beyond can do this is because they are a well known company and can leverage that position to gain free labour.

And, let's not mince words here, this is EXACTLY what they are getting - free labour and free marketing. This isn't about "helping some struggling artist get noticed". That's 100% horse pucky. D&D Beyond or any larger company could not give a rats petoot about the "exposure" that someone is getting. That's just the hook they are selling in order to gain free labour.
It’s not free labor if they don’t use the entries that don’t win. 🤷🏻‍♂️

“You don’t care what the quality is.”

?

If they don’t use those losing entries, they don’t have value to DDB. If they don’t have value, why should they pay for them?
 
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