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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

Hussar

Legend
Fair enough. Value is not the same as sale price, I agree.

Though this thread has largely been dominated by the ideas that DDB was generating revenue from artists free labour. Also that DDB were exploiting the artists, when in fact it was the community that benefits through entrants submitting their token frames and DDB providing the hosting service and advertising.

The argument - pay your entrants - rings hollow when the product isn’t being sold. Companies that tend to pay more for items than they sell them for seldom thrive. The multitude of problem kickstarters testifies to that.
Ok, now here's the question then:

Since, as you say, D&D Beyond has categorically stated that they will not sell any of these frames, then why do they need the rights to them? After all, the absolute best defense against getting litigated against is never actually doing anything that can be litigated in the first place. If they are telling the truth and aren't selling that product, then they have zero needs to the rights to the products that aren't winning and being displayed.

Funny though how we can choose to believe THAT Twitter statement, but, we cannot trust the other Twitter statement. :erm:

And, there is an additional point you are missing by focusing solely on this example. This sort of contest HAS been used for predatory practices in the past. That's undeniable. By continuing to use these sorts of contests with these sorts of practices, contests which are predatory become legitimized. "Don't do this sort of contest, it's predatory." "Well, D&D Beyond did this sort of contest, so, it's not predatory."

There are larger issues at play here and a bit more nuance than is perhaps being examined.
 

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EthanSental

Adventurer
Post 535 in the thread copied tweet from DDB says the submitter retains the rights to the art/frames….am I missing something in this overly long discussion?
 

Hussar

Legend
Post 535 in the thread copied tweet from DDB says the submitter retains the rights to the art/frames….am I missing something in this overly long discussion?
I believe the issue is that while artists do retain ownership, they no longer retain exclusive ownership. D&D Beyond also gains the rights to publish/sell/whatever the art as well.

Now, if I'm wrong about that, then I will withdraw all my criticisms. But, AFAIK, that's the sticking point - that the boilerplate of the contest grants D&D Beyond non-exclusive (I believe that's the right word) rights to print, sell, fold, spindle or maul any submission in any way they see fit.

Which, essentially, means that the rights to any submitted art can never be sold to a third party by the artist since no one is going to buy it.

Again, I believe (and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong) that other contests using similar language in the past have been less than scrupulous in their use of those granted rights, which is why there was a significant negative response to D&D Beyond doing the same thing.

Is that a fair recap? Anyone have an issue with how I've summarized things?
 

carmachu

Explorer
It's predatory behavior that DDB recognized. You can read their own statement as a counterargument.
Its really not the first time with has pulled this predatory behavior.

What was it almost a decade ago, thief blogs website they rolled out Brain trust? If you used iT to write or create worlds or adventures, word retained all rights to those works.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I believe the issue is that while artists do retain ownership, they no longer retain exclusive ownership. D&D Beyond also gains the rights to publish/sell/whatever the art as well.

Now, if I'm wrong about that, then I will withdraw all my criticisms. But, AFAIK, that's the sticking point - that the boilerplate of the contest grants D&D Beyond non-exclusive (I believe that's the right word) rights to print, sell, fold, spindle or maul any submission in any way they see fit.

Which, essentially, means that the rights to any submitted art can never be sold to a third party by the artist since no one is going to buy it.

Again, I believe (and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong) that other contests using similar language in the past have been less than scrupulous in their use of those granted rights, which is why there was a significant negative response to D&D Beyond doing the same thing.

Is that a fair recap? Anyone have an issue with how I've summarized things?
The only thing I’d add is that granting dndbeyond a license is needed for them to even display your works on its website.

Even a grant of license for that purpose renders you unable to grant an exclusive license in the future.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Its really not the first time with has pulled this predatory behavior.

What was it almost a decade ago, thief blogs website they rolled out Brain trust? If you used iT to write or create worlds or adventures, word retained all rights to those works.
I agree this example is exploitation.
 

Hussar

Legend
The only thing I’d add is that granting dndbeyond a license is needed for them to even display your works on its website.

Even a grant of license for that purpose renders you unable to grant an exclusive license in the future.
Yes. Totally agree here. I think it's perfectly reasonable that the winners grant licensing to D&DBeyond. Like you say, they pretty much have to grant some sort of license. Heck, the point of the contest was that the winning entry would be used as the frame on character sheets in D&DB, so, yeah, you pretty much have to grant some sort of license. That's pretty fair AFAIC. It's the fact that everyone had to grant that license to D&DB just to enter that I had an issue with.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yet, we're supposed to just trust that D&D Beyond would never take advantage of the contest?

Which is it? Can we trust companies or not? If we cannot even trust them to make basic statements of fact, why should we trust them when they say that they aren't going to take advantage of the terms of their contest?
I would say we shouldn’t blindly trust what any company says - but there are certain facts/judgments related to the situation that can be used to make a case for their likely actions.

1. Negative PR would most likely cost them more than they would gain from selling these items for profit.
2. Even if the negative PR didn’t cost more - The profit from selling such ‘border frame’ art would be extremely minimal

Seeing that there’s very little positive and possibly negative impact thats enough to make me believe that such initial statements were truthful.

the second statement wasn’t false either, it’s just a bit misleading (probably not intentionally so but no the less…) as the notion that the community as a whole came out against the contest was somewhat implied - when there’s no evidence how much of the community agrees with or disagrees with the segment complaining about the contest.
 




BookTenTiger

He / Him
I've always been curious about this "participation trophy" discourse. What's that all about? Is it an American thing?
It's a dog whistle people use to imply a whole collection of political beliefs.

The idea is: "In modern day everyone gets a trophy just for participating, and this weakens the tradition of competition and somehow harms children."

What it really means is: "Back in my day we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways..."

It usually comes out when there are discussions about treating people equitably. In this case folks seem to be reacting to the fact that this is a contest.
 

MGibster

Legend
Look, I'm an attorney that specializes in Bankruptcy. People absolutely don't realize what a bad deal they're getting and they REALLY do think they will beat the odds. lotteries exploit this.
I once had a job at a bank reviewing rejected mortgage loans to ensure that the decision was reached while following applicable policy and laws. I was floored by how many of the people with bankruptcies were in that situation because of medical bills. Easily more than half of the bankruptcies I looked at involved a significant amount of unpaid medical bills. I'm sure there are people who go bankrupt because they're just bad at making financial decisions. But there are a lot of people who go bankrupt because life looked them in the eye and kicked them square in the balls.
 

MGibster

Legend
I've always been curious about this "participation trophy" discourse. What's that all about? Is it an American thing?
The long and the short of it, participation trophies were most associated with millennials who were given awards for participating in sporting events even if they didn't place 1st, 2nd or third. i.e. If you showed up that day you got an award. This coincided with a time when some sports leagues were experimenting with not keeping score during games. Defenders of the practice argued that participation trophies prevented children from feeling bad about not winning and taught them that whatever effort they put into something was good enough. Critics thought participation trophies was a bunch of horse hockey because kids knew they weren't real and it taught kids that whatever effort they put into something was good enough. I can't tell you how prevalent participation trophies actually were as I don't have children of my own.

As a Gen-Xer myself, I never got a participation trophy. If I didn't place in the top three I didn't get any award. I don't really know if participation trophies are still a thing.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
I once had a job at a bank reviewing rejected mortgage loans to ensure that the decision was reached while following applicable policy and laws. I was floored by how many of the people with bankruptcies were in that situation because of medical bills. Easily more than half of the bankruptcies I looked at involved a significant amount of unpaid medical bills. I'm sure there are people who go bankrupt because they're just bad at making financial decisions. But there are a lot of people who go bankrupt because life looked them in the eye and kicked them square in the balls.

To go WAY off topic:

Medical bills are the #1 cause of bankruptcies in the US, followed by Job loss and then divorce. Unsound financial decisions are around 4 or 5 depending.

But that's a separate issue from people not understanding odds (which I will 100% stand by).
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It's a dog whistle people use to imply a whole collection of political beliefs.

The idea is: "In modern day everyone gets a trophy just for participating, and this weakens the tradition of competition and somehow harms children."

What it really means is: "Back in my day we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways..."

It usually comes out when there are discussions about treating people equitably. In this case folks seem to be reacting to the fact that this is a contest.
Ironically, The term dog whistle has also become a dog whistle.
 


Bolares

Hero
The long and the short of it, participation trophies were most associated with millennials who were given awards for participating in sporting events even if they didn't place 1st, 2nd or third. i.e. If you showed up that day you got an award. This coincided with a time when some sports leagues were experimenting with not keeping score during games. Defenders of the practice argued that participation trophies prevented children from feeling bad about not winning and taught them that whatever effort they put into something was good enough. Critics thought participation trophies was a bunch of horse hockey because kids knew they weren't real and it taught kids that whatever effort they put into something was good enough. I can't tell you how prevalent participation trophies actually were as I don't have children of my own.

As a Gen-Xer myself, I never got a participation trophy. If I didn't place in the top three I didn't get any award. I don't really know if participation trophies are still a thing.
Putting children in a lot of competitions is that normal of a thing, that there is a whole culture and discourse about if you should or not give trophies to children? Cultural differences are wild...
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
To go WAY off topic:

Medical bills are the #1 cause of bankruptcies in the US, followed by Job loss and then divorce. Unsound financial decisions are around 4 or 5 depending.

But that's a separate issue from people not understanding odds (which I will 100% stand by).
The point I’m making is that You don’t have to understand odds in full to be directionally aligned enough to arrive at the same non-numerical conclusions of someone that does.

High level everyone realizes the lottery takes in more money than it pays out. Even the most mathematically inept. Those people don’t play the lottery because they think over time on average it will increase their wealth. They play it for different reasons.
 

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