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Creators beware: Contesting to fail

Edited by GreenReaper as of Fri 10 Jun 2011 - 14:32
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The new big thing in Furry Fandom is contests! Yes, now you can enter into a contest to win a paid commission. All you have to do is submit a piece of art, of the finest quality you can make, to specification and for free to the person running the contest… see the flaw yet?

To those of you who've not worked it out: yes, this is what we call a "scam".

Updated with some probability theory showing the scammy nature of these contests.

The guy running the contest gets a whole load of "to specification" artwork, and only has to pay for one, but keeps all of them. The clever ones even put in the small print that all rights to submissions are transferred to them. The really abusive ones never pay out at all, with their winner being a friend or a sock-puppet. Sometimes they're run by people who just don't get that it's not okay to trick people into giving you stuff for free.

This is nothing new, and has been going on in other fandoms for as long as people thought they could take advantage of others, or felt they deserved things for free. Other variants include "Your submission could be included in a High Quality Full Colour Art-Book, retailing for $18.99." where every submission wins, and the books are then sold to the "Lucky" winners.

Some people do try to defend these contests, with the following arguments…

"These contests provide exposure for the people who enter."

They're probably the least effective way to gain exposure. What exposure is gained will be that from people who look at the other entries – which may not be possible in closed submissions – and from whatever use the winning entry sees, which may be very limited indeed.

"People should be allowed to give their work away for free if they want."

Sure, I'm not going to make the Pixel-Stained Technopeasant argument. If you want to willingly give away your work, that's fine. But that's different to using the promise of a "win" to get people to do work for free, particularly if you give exact specifications for what you want. People have the right to distribute their work how they want, but taking advantage by subtly coercing them into handing over stuff for free is unethical.

"No one gets hurt, it's just for fun."

People can spend hours, even days of hard work on their submission – and can then be crushed when they realise they've been taken for a sucker. That sounds like harm to me.

Sadly, it's hard to prevent these abusive "contests". But it is possible to get the message out to creators to beware of being scammed into providing their work for free.

UPDATE: A Little Mathmatics

I didn't go into this because I thought it was obvious, but comments below have shown otherwise.

The bulk of the scam nature of this comes because it's a trick to obscure the probabilities of winning, and the "average return". This induces people into entering, because human nature is to over-inflate the chances of success. Scams almost always depend on people volunteering themselves into these situations, so explaining 'the rules' is still scam like behaviour if it's impossible to identify the actual chances of winning.

Here's an example. The Contest is set up with the normal kind of rules, and there is even a sample art showing the previous winner. An Artist sees this, and has produced similar or greater quality work that has sold for $30. The prize in the contest is a $120, quadruple that of her normal commission! So the Artist enters...

Good deal? No. The contest has obscured the chances of winning, by not having a cap on entry or any information on how many people are expected to enter, that obscures any information on 'the average rate of return' which is the prize averaged out and weighted to probability of success. In this case, it only requires more than four other people of similar ability to the artist to enter the contest, for the average rate of return to drop below $30.

People are hard wired to over-estimate their own chances, and underestimate the amount of competition. So these contests take advantage of basic aspects of human nature to trick people into taking a bad deal that looks like a good one.


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"The abusive ones never pay out at all..."

You say that as if the abusive ones are only a subset of the scam, but I think they are the only ones that are actually a scam: lying/misleading about it actually being a winnable contest. Otherwise, it is not a scam. Either you think the chance of winning is worth the time and effort to enter, or you don't enter. It is pretty simple, short of suggesting most artists are too stupid to decide for themselves on something like that.

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Even when you set out the rules clearly, it can still be a scam. When you get down to it, it's still a trick to get people to do free commissions.

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Of course they get free pictures out of it, that is the whole point of such things. I don't see how something so obvious can be called a scam. Otherwise you might as well call art requests and suggestions scams too, because they sometimes get artists to do art for free.

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No. They are not free. The compensation is the chance at a prize and any related publicity for the work.

Depending on how the winner is picked and the number of entries, it may be a contest of skill or a lottery, and depending on the artist and the contest it may be rational or irrational to enter — but it is not a scam unless fraud is involved.

The crucial element is deception. Shilling, or simply not paying, would be deceit: the compensation is misrepresented. Art-books might be deceit if the work was advertised as having greater distribution; otherwise, it's just a poor deal.

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Fraud and Scam are not synonymous. It's quite possible to take advantage of people in dishonest ways that are not illegal or fraudulent. Look up "Don Lapre" if you don't believe me. Has made a long career out of doing things that are quite clearly money making scams, but has never even been accused of a crime. Lotteries and casinos are basically legitimised scams that prey on people who don't understand probability. And 'contests' which use the common psychological tricks to convince people to hand over free work for no pay and little benefit are also scams.

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Yes, they are. A few definitions of 'scam' from around the web:
"n. a fraudulent business scheme - vb. deprive of by deceit"
"n. A fraudulent business scheme; a swindle. - v. To defraud; swindle."
"n. a confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle."

It is quite possible to take advantage of people, but that is not the same as outright defrauding them.
Legitimate lotteries are not scams because they are not fraudulent. They are just a bad deal, in most cases.

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The OED says "A Dishonest Scheme". But if you wish to use your own definition of words, you may substitute where I say "scam" with "attempt to procure items of worth for a fraction of the cost based on subtle psychological encouragement to accept a very one-sided arrangement".

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Apparently the Concise Oxford English Dictionary differs despite being by the same publisher:

a dishonest scheme; a fraud

Regardless, I don't see anything dishonest here. I think you're focusing on the difference between what an artist gets with a commission and through a contest, without considering what the contest-holder gets:

  • The overall quality is likely to be lower, both due to self-selection and the lack of a guaranteed payout
  • There are unlikely to be sketches or alterations
  • The artists probably won't be particularly favoured by the contest-holder
  • The number of entries is in most cases undetermined

Some artists' work has little to no value to start with. I'd rather get one piece worth $20 than 20 worth $1, and that is a significant risk in such a contest.

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"Lotteries and casinos are basically legitimised scams that prey on people who don't understand probability."

People who don't understand probability or maths will run into problems with many such things, but that doesn't describe every participant in such activities.

It is not just the participants they affect though. Lotteries inflate the ego of those that assume a linear utility value of money, and casinos inflate the moral superiority complexes of those that don't understand what is fun to some other people. So maybe there are more than one parallels between art contests and gambling.

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I've entered a small number of art contests before, but I only enter ones along the lines of "draw a dragon" or "draw any Pokemon". I'm glad other furs realize how these kind of contests ("draw me this exact artwork of my personal characters and if you win, I'll pay your commission price (but not anyone elses)") are kind of scammy.

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This is why I preach that if you must enter one of these contests, Try to seek someone thats been around the furry fandom for awhile and has a good reputation; their not as likely to scam someone off (though as Ive seen thats not always the case). I also should say that that person better know what their going up against; I find that whoever holding the contest will usually, though not always, put close friends, sex buds, families, or artists that are just done right excellent in higher priority, regardless how well or not it fits the theme.

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Sorry for being a grammar Nazi, but you're using "their" incorrectly. You meant to type "they're".

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Don't be ridiculous--it's not a scam unless fraud is involved.

Every contest entry gets a prize immediately upon entering--the *chance* to win. Actually winning the contest is then icing on the cake.

Anyone that enters a contest thinking, "Oh, cool, a hundred bucks? I could use that to help buy [item]!" without considering that a) they might not win, or b) that if they don't win they would have done the art for no monetary gain is, quite frankly, an idiot. That doesn't make the contest holder a "con-artist".

Many people use art contests that are judged by quality to impress their skill--it's a wonderful thing to brag about if someone picked your peice out of, say, a hundred others, regardless of whether or not you generally make more/less for a paid commission. The prize is the chance. Having a "OMG ur all speshul so evurrbuddy winz have a medal for participating :D!" attitude is a pussyfooting, silly, and detrimentive mistake.

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"Every contest entry gets a prize immediately upon entering--the *chance* to win."

Sounds like something you'd hear from a Carney... Roll up ladies and gents, everyone wins a prize, the chance to win!

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No, because at a carnival you at least get a tiny plastic snake instead of a giant, stuffed one. :3

Let me put it like this: It's equivilant to entering American Idol: if you enter, you *will* be judged, and might even win, depending on your skill. If you *don't* enter, you have no chance at winning.

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The difference there is the prize, publicity and prestige.

There is a moderate sum of prestige to being judged by professionals, and even some by phone vote. Enter American Idol, and just get to a regional final and you're on TV. And the prize far exceeds what they could otherwise earn with the time spent.

With a "commission lottery", the publicity is exceptionally limited. There is very little and probably nil prestige, and the average rate of return is normally what could have been earned from working on a paid commission.

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Unless of course it was a big name furry who wants and art contest and has people do votes at conventions. Lets say each convention had an art contest, and at the end of the year there were some grand finale.

The thing is the people who don't pass the regionals in American idol get just as little presestige as the arts who fail to win in these contests.

I think it's important the artist know what they're getting into, yes, but you cannot force a horse to drink water. Or not to drink kool-aid.

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It's not always Kool-Aid--I don't do money commissions yet (though I do sell my art annually, but that's another story), and many others also make no money for their work. They could just be bored or losing motivation to work, and a contest is just the right incentive.

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I don't view art contests to be a "lottery" by any means.

It's not as if the contest holder puts all the enrants names with a number, then chooses a number at random.

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the average rate of return is normally what could have been earned from working on a paid commission.

Sounds like a fair deal to me. If the average return were less, rational people wouldn't bother.

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I'm being favourable... In most cases, the AVR is going to be much much below what a talented person could earn.

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That's why you don't see many talented artists entering such competitions.

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Unless, of course, it's for shits and giggles.

(Or, of course, they feel the contest holder is more talented than they are and the reward is a commission fdom them.)

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Oh come now. It's not a scam. Everything is very clearly spelled out at the beginning. If the person holding the contest doesn't pay out then it's a problem but otherwise it's everyone's choice whether to enter or not.

They do provide exposure. I know one site where you get a first, second and third place and those people get their submissions featured on the main page. In addition you get art swaps, I've participated in two and enjoyed it. You get a picture or story and someone else gets one from you. Sure it's a bit of a risk but you take that by deciding to enter.

There's also subtle coercion. How is 'Draw X doing Y etc" subtle? You know exactly what you are getting into. It's no worse than doing a free request for someone, with the advantage that you might get something back. People that do it do it for fun. They do it because they were going to draw anyway and if they did the subject suggested they might get something back.

Taken for a sucker because they might not win? Don't lump people that don't follow through with people that hold the contests as stated. It's like playing the lottery, you might not win and you should realise that before you start.

I've been in a number of contests and swaps. Some I lost, although I must say I believe the judges were biased against me, but in another I did win and was able to get two pictures with the prize money. Frankly you need to go learn what a scam actually is before you start accusing people of such things.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Again, even when the rules are all set out, it's still taking advantage of people. The person running the contest is getting a large amount of free work, for a small amount paid out to one person. If it's paid out at all.

An honest contest would be one with only the loosest of themes, even "Draw X doing Y" is a specification that should be a paid commission in a fair transaction. An honest contest would not require the creator to produce something specifically for that contest. An honest contest doesn't blanket transfer all rights to the submissions. An honest contest would only offer "exposure" if it were backed by a large publisher not a single operator.

As an example... An honest contest would be something more like ConBook submissions to a loose theme, where there is a prize draw for accepted submissions, and the exposure is to a specific known audience. A dishonest contest is to someone on a forum, who offers $50 to the 'winning' submission of her character as a superhero, and reserves rights to use any submissions as con-badges and on her website.

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You wouldn't say they are taking advantage if they were offering a prize. If they just said, 'Please draw X doing Y.' That would just be a request for people to take if they wanted to and I assume you'd be okay with that? How is offering an incentive suddenly making that so terrible?

I also can't say I've ever seen anyone say they get all the rights to any work submitted but even if that's true the artists or authors enter by their own free will. An honest contest is one that isn't hiding anything, not one that is doing what you think is the nice thing to do.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Offering the incentive turns it into drawing people in with the idea that they might get some pay. While offering it just for free means people have the total knowledge they will not be recompensed for their work.

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Well, they might indeed get some pay. They might not. What's your point?

Your argument could easily be applied to the Anthrocon sweepstakes (or more accurately, to the contests in prior years which required a submission of work). Are these, then, scams as well? If not, how are they different?

(Arguably conventions offer wide publication, but they typically do not promise to publish all entries.)

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See comment above: Being backed by a large publisher or group who can offer real exposure to a known audience for accepted entries makes it much more legitimate.

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No, it makes it a better deal. It is up to each individual to decide whether compensation is worth their time.

Now, if exposure is misrepresented, it may be fraud. If you say "we're going to print 100,000 copies" and only print 1,000, that would be deceptive. If you say you will offer a book for sale, and do, but fail to sell to anyone but the artists involved, that is unlikely to be fraud. It is a poor business decision by the artists.

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Hey GreenReaper, I'm going to start a contest up where people give me $5 each, and after I get enough money and enough entries I'll buy someone artwork worth 1/4 of what I brought in on entry fees. Do you want in?

It's all spelled out there. That makes it legit, right?

You fully understand the author's meaning behind this, even if he's arguing silly definitions and not the real guts of what he's saying. You know exactly what he means, and clearly in my case above, you wouldn't call that a fair contest. In fact, you might call it a scam, no? Just because I gave you all the terms up front doesn't mean it's a good deal, and a bad deal is often called a scam. But again, definitions here are simply a red herring to the real meaning of the post.

Read what he's saying. Next time there's a contest for you to submit your best photo and to give the rights to the holders of said contest simply for a chance at some prize money, I suggest you do it.

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If I were comfortable with my chance of winning, the prize, and the licensing terms, I would enter.

You appear to take the position that if the organizer is winning, everyone else must lose, and that this makes a contest illegitimate. But from the point of view of a competitor, it doesn't matter whether the organizer makes a profit. What matters is whether I come out ahead - i.e. whether:

(chance of winning * prize value) - cost of entry [including opportunity costs] > 0

This is why fraud is so important. If the estimation of chance or prize value is inaccurate, it throws off the calculation.

Most lotteries are a bad deal, unless the house has made a mistake. Charity raffles might be an exception; the entry fees need not cover the prize, so the organizer need not care if the average prize is higher than the entry fee.

A contest of skill is a different matter. Consider an expert poker player who enters a casino, knowing that the house takes a cut. His action may be rational, because he can beat the other players.

Similarly, a skilled artist may rationally enter such a contest, as long as they have a sufficiently high chance of winning. (Of course, their opportunity costs are also higher - they could probably get a commission with a guaranteed return.)

I license almost all my photos under CC-BY-SA. My opportunity cost is minimal - if I have a chance of winning $100, I might well go for it. If the organizer turns around and sells that photo to someone else for $200, that's fine; they probably have contacts or business knowledge which I lack. It doesn't follow that I could have made that $200 directly.

It's not necessarily a zero-sum game, and what is a bad deal for some contestants (or for third parties, like photographers who used to sell photos for $500 but now find the market depressed) may be good for others.

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Can I point out that unless the organiser limits the number of contestants to a set figure, and specifies it as a draw-win, then 'chance of winning' is impossible to know. And by your own admission, in a 'quality-win' situation the talented artist is facing an opportunity-loss from wasting time and effort on what could be focused on paid-for work.

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It may be impossible to know the number of contestants precisely. However, you may have a good idea whether you're talking about 10 competitors or 100, especially if entries are posted over time. If you don't have any idea, then you should probably not enter.

Similarly, if you cannot estimate the quality of the field (or your own skill), you should probably not enter a contest based on quality.

The opportunity cost is a factor. However, if the chance of winning is 10%, and the prize is $500, it still makes sense to enter instead of doing a $25 commission, unless you need a guaranteed return.

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And how many of these "Commission Lotteries" are truly going to have an 'average return' at or above the market commission rate for the art being submitted?

And would you admit that those which are set up to provide a tiny fraction of the market rate, and obscure the chances of winning, could be scams?

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Probably not many. But as has been said already by many different people, it is not necessary for a contest to be a "good deal" for it not to be a scam.

A contest is only a scam if it is fraudulent. For example, the prize may not be worth what it is claimed, or the chance of winning is not what was specified.

Deciding whether fraud has occurred is a question for a jury, based on the specifics. Misleading contestants may be fraudulent. However, merely failing to mention how many people are going to enter an open contest is unlikely to be fraud. After all, the organizers don't know either.

You are welcome to advise people against entering such competitions, but calling any particular contest a scam is essentially accusing the organizers of fraud, which could easily be seen as libel.

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Again, it does not have to be criminal fraud to be a scam.

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Others here appear to disagree with you. You are entitled to your own interpretation, but it might be questioned in court.

Put it this way: When you hear "X is a scam", are you more likely to think "X is a poor business decision" or "X promises something that they don't deliver"? The former is an opinion, the latter is a statement of fact (and defamation if untrue).

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At its best this class of 'contest' run by individuals for small sums is an unethical abuse of people's nature to over-estimate their chances by using a set-up that obscures the tiny average rate of return, at its worse it *is* fraud where the winner is always a friend of the operator or a sock-puppet of the operator themselves. And what's more, there is no way for the people entering the contest to tell the difference between merely being taken for a sucker or being defrauded!

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It should also be pointed out that "cost of entry [including opportunity costs]" here can be smaller than the cost of time effort it takes to make art, if the contest involves any enjoyment, fun, or other benefits from just participating. In fact, the opportunity costs can even be negative. (Or alternatively, add a term to the inequality for other benefits.)

Even if not knowing the exact number of people that will enter, the reduced costs can let you estimate how many people it would take before it is not worth your time. It can easily require more entries than would be expected. Not to mention I've seen artists that increase number of prizes based on the number of entries, so the chances to win doesn't shrink if more people enter.

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It should be noted there are legal differences between a sweepstakes, contest, and lottery. Anthrocon conducts a sweepstakes, not a contest or lottery.

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It does now, yes. That's why I specified previous years, in which entrants were required to license their work in return for a chance at the prize. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, legal issues aside.)

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It did in previous years, too. Flayrah just reported this inaccurately.

A lottery requires three elements: A prize, a random drawing, and consideration (either money or "considerable time and effort"). The Anthrocon sweepstakes has always met the first two elements, but not the third.

"Oh," you say, "but I need to spend considerable time and effort to get my art in the conbook to win!"

No, you don't, because publication in the conbook has never been a requirement to enter or win the drawing.

This means you could scribble a badly-drawn stick figure on a scrap of paper—using less time and effort than it takes to fill out the entry form—and submit that. Elements of consideration have never been a requirement to enter or win the drawing.

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The legal issue is the presence of consideration, not its quality. You were still required to license that stick figure to Anthrocon. It was this licensing that was the consideration, not the act of publication. An entry without consideration was invalid:

If we do not have a completed release form on file by the deadline, we cannot enter you in the drawing or use your submission(s).

A lottery may require $1 to enter, for a prize of millions. I know plenty of furries who sell stick figures for $1.

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It was this licensing that was the consideration, not the act of publication.

Well, that certainly is an unusual interpretation of what constitutes consideration, but it's incorrect. Consideration is defined as requiring money or "considerable time and effort" to enter.

Note your cited example of licensing does not require considerable time and effort, just a signature. The time and effort to sign one's name is miniscule. In fact, unless you're a yak or earwig or jellyfish, signing your name on a form doesn't really constitute "considerable time and effort" by any stretch of the imagination.

However, as I'm fairly confident that there aren't an abundance of yaks or earwigs or jellyfish submitting entries, I'm not too concerned.

TL;DR: It's not called consideration, it's called properly filling out an entry form.

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I don't know where you're getting "considerable time and effort" from, but it's wrong.

Consideration is something of value given by both parties that induces them to enter into a contract. The consideration may be trivial; many contracts define the value as a dollar, or a peppercorn. It might also be an agreement to do/not do something. It can be almost anything that a party values – though not a past action, or a legal duty (you can't enforce a contract where you promise not to murder someone).

There are a couple of legal theories as to whether consideration should involve benefit for both parties or merely the intent to enter into a bargain. The trend has been to focus on intent to bargain, as courts do not wish to be in the business of deciding whether the exchange is reasonable.

This contract meets both tests. Anthrocon valued the right to publish art and stories, and intended to trade the chance to win a supersponsorship for that right; the purpose of the form was to exchange such rights. Similarly, submitters benefited from that chance, and were willing to exchange a license for it. There was no way to enter but to "send us artwork and/or writing submission(s) according to the conbook guidelines (i.e., properly formatted, signed release form, &c.)".

Your argument about considerable time and effort for a signature is nonsensical. I can sign a promissory note for $1000; the thing of value is not the signature, but what it signifies – that I have promised to give $1000 in the future (presumably for something of value now, like $1000). The things of value here are the license to use the work (even if Anthrocon chose not to execute it) and the chance to win a supersponsorship.

The fact is that Anthrocon changed its policy in 2011 to no longer require such licenses to enter its contest. The simplest explanation for this is that Anthrocon found it had a lottery, and wished to change that.

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I don't know where you're getting "considerable time and effort" from, but it's wrong.

What Is Consideration?
Consideration is a legal term which generally means an undertaking in response to a promise. There are generally two types of consideration in the context of sweepstakes promotions: monetary and non-monetary. Monetary is typically the payment of money, such as the purchase of a product or a service or the direct payment of an entry fee. Non-monetary consideration is an entrant’s expenditure of considerable time or effort.

Getting permission to publish artwork has no monetary value and does not require considerable time or effort.

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The definition I used is from West's Encyclopedia of American Law, 2nd ed. Yours is from Admin777 on, and contains enough qualifiers to drive a bus of fursuiters through. I am not sure what else needs to be said.

Getting permission to publish artwork has no monetary value . . .

Did you even read my last comment? The consideration is the permission itself, not the act of giving it. If you think the permission to print artwork has no monetary value, you are welcome to try stuffing conbags with 5000 prints of Eyes of the Night without obtaining a license. Good luck with that.

Seriously, Mr. X – if I may call you that – you're just digging yourself into a hole, for no good reason. Anthrocon is not at fault for having wanted to compensate writers and artists for the use of their work. I do not even fault the board member who complained when I named the contest a lottery. Most lotteries involve the exchange of money for a chance at getting more money, or goods; the concept of artwork rights as consideration for an entry is understandably uncommon.

Where I do find fault is returning to argue the point after Anthrocon recognized that their offer did not match their intent and corrected it. That action was to their credit; yours only hurts them. Let it go.

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People do "to specification" artwork for free, all the time, for many reasons. I don't see why there's anything wrong with that. I am having someone draw me a very elaborate scene and he is doing it for free because he wants to practice drawing the subjects and the "topics" explored in the scene are interesting to that person.

It's fairly common for furry artists to draw a popular fursuiter, with the (probably false) hope that they will become more popular themselves. However, that was the artist's decision to do this in the first place. The artist has nobody but himself/herself to blame for agreeing to draw free art that doesn't provide him or her any real benefit. Again, if you are stupid (or ignorant or desperate) enough to give away free work for no good reason, you have nobody buy yourself to blame.

I could say "draw my fursona exactly how I like him to look and whoever draws the picture I like the most wins $20" and that is completely fair contest. Sure, I'm an ass, I will admit that, but it IS a fair contest. It's fair because everyone who participates knows exactly what they stand to gain, exactly what they stand to lose and exactly how the winner will be chosen. If you don't like that sort of thing, tough cookies, don't participate.

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Knowing the rules, does not make it a fair game. And in fact, in your example, all the conditions of the 'game' are not known at all, and it's impossible to calculate the odds of success. This naturally leads people to over-inflate their own chances, and it is this that the contests take advantage of.

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It is a "fair game" because everyone knows that the winner will be selected arbitrarily and that there is no logical or mathematical way to determine one's odds of success. It's very clear.

The only thing that could be inflated are one's own ego regarding his or her of artistic talent, which would lead people to think they have a higher chance of being selected than they do. And that isn't my fault.

Nobody is being exploited. There is no coercion to participate in the contest- nobody is being forced or tricked to do it (the fact that you don't like the rules doesn't make it a trick). The rules don't change and prize don't change after the contest is underway.

I don't see doing these contests as any different as the show American Idol, people may elect to participate, which incurs an opportunity cost of their time and nobody knows the odds of winning as the winner is chosen arbitrarily and the result is subject to other factors such as the contestants personalities or unforeseen events.

The size of the potential audience exposure doesn't matter either. Whether it's a prime time show like American Idol, a karaoke contest at your local bar or a contest on my page with 100 watchers, it's all the same and it's a fair deal unless the contestants are promised more exposure than I can actually deliver. As long as I'm not promising to showcase their artwork to more viewers than I really have, it's a fair deal.

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I agree with the other furs that say this is clearly NOT a fraud or scam where people enter into a contest of their own free will, knowing that they are not guaranteed to get anything out of it.

To say this is a fraud is akin to spending a bunch of money you don't have using your credit card to party and have a good time, then complaining that it's the credit card company's fault for letting you do this in the first place. What a load of crap!

The only way it's a fraud is if someone lies about the game or misrepresents the facts, such as stating that the winner will be the 20th submission when the winner is someone else.

This sense of entitlement that is in vogue these days, especially among young artists it seems, needs to end. Just because you consider yourself creative does not mean that you are entitled to make a living off your art.

Just because you think your art is worth money doesn't mean you deserve to earn money from it. You only deserve money for your art if people are willing to purchase it from you. It's completely up to the buyer, not the artist, to decide whether the art is valuable.

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"It's completely up to the buyer, not the artist, to decide whether the art is valuable."

No. No. No. It is up to the artist to set the price on their work, it is only up to the buyer as to if they will accept it. Even auctions have a set reserve price. It is not healthy or good for people to trick, coerce, or socially pressure artists into giving their art away for free. If an artist wants to give away their art for free, then they should do it without being pushed into it by a dangling carrot of "you could win". If they want to price their art higher than the market can bear, that's their choice too.

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I think greasy's point was that the artist can set any price tag, but that doesn't magically make it worth that much. Some artists' output may have little to no value on the open market; in those cases, entry to a contest (especially a contest of chance) may be rational, as the choice is "have a chance of making something" or "make nothing".

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It's not healthy or good to involve yourself in other people's business as long as there's no wrongdoing. Unless we're talking about an actual scam, (such as making false claims about the prize) there is no coercion, no trick and no pressure. The dangling carrot you speak of doesn't change the fact that everybody in the contest is a voluntary participant who has the opportunity to consider the benefits and drawbacks to participating. The fact that one or more participants make an uneducated decision to participate doesn't make it any kind of scam.

My point with the price of art is that it will only sell for as much as the market will bear. If the price (or auction reserve) is higher than that amount, it will not sell. So it is totally up to the buyers to decide how much the art is worth. Regardless of what the artist thinks about the value of his or her art, it us completely up the buyers to make that deal happen. The world does not owe you a living from your art.

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"It's not healthy or good to involve yourself in other people's business as long as there's no wrongdoing."

Is your objection here that I'm educating Artists to not fall for attractive looking "contests" that provide much smaller return than traditional commission sales?

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Problems with such contests kind of come from two places though, through a potential personal fault with either the contest creator or the entering artist.

In the case of the creator, it is a common issue of people being cheap. But I don't think being cheap alone is problematic, but cheap enough to want to actively mislead or manipulate others. It is also quite possible for the creator to simply not understand the nature of the contest they offer and various associated issues that fall short of what many would call a scam (if assuming it is determined purely by monetary value and ignoring other reasons to enter/offer a contest). Is it a scam for someone to list too expensive of a price when selling something in the classifieds/ebay/garage sale because they didn't know the proper value?

In the case of the artist, it is more complex because this relates to a much larger issues I've seen with many artists: misjudging the value of their work and drawing (or otherwise creating) for the wrong reasons. Many artists will create art of subjects they don't care about and respond to suggestions/requestions in the hope to generate popularity, get noticed, or trying to buy friendship with art. Others might undercharge for their commissions because they think it will give them a more positive image. These are all cases where an artist can easily underestimate what they are getting in return for their art. And there are cases of very clearly not scam contests, e.g. based on around fun and themes that are not getting free commissions for one person, that still lead to a lot of drama due to regret from an artist or two about the time they spent.

I don't think you can categorically call such contests a scam, even in the case where a few artists might underestimate their return and regret it afterwards. It really depends on the situation, and still ends up risking being a blame game of accusations. Part of the problem with that, is there are artists that don't underestimate their work, and people who create contests intended for fun or various other purposes than saving money. Labelling all such contests scams, and thinking of participants as having been scammed, can come down as insulting by assuming such people can't decide the worthwhile of such things for themselves. Over-generalisation and assumptions like that tend to be the source of a lot of drama instead of helping people out...

(And I am not sure the extra math helps. It is not like explaining probability and the odds would empty a casino. While a few people should learn such things and would leave, others wouldn't because they are not there just on the basis of profitability. After all, quite a few mathematicians still gamble and such, and just claiming it is lack of maths and understanding of probability to blame for why they were there is not going to win any favours.)

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Darnit, Lamar, you can't add stuff just because the commenters aren't buying what you're selling.

Well, actually, apparently you can. Could've used that information a while back ...

Also, since the third highest rated comment of the month is still you telling me off for not using newstyle (admittedly, among other things), I can't resist pointing out that ain't exactly newstyle up there, either. Some other commenter suggested you take a look at the AP Stylebook. I really did enjoy that a little too much.

Yes, this comment is about stupid Internet grudges. Sue me.

As for the actual piece itself ... eh, sounds like a scam to me. Not your best piece, but your streak had to end somewhere. Better luck next time. I do wonder, though, if more than a couple furry contests run this way are copycats who are completely unaware that what they are doing is actually unethical, and genuinely think that this is how a contest is supposed to be run.

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Your 'mathematics' addition really does nothing to help because your whole original point hasn't improved. There is no dishonesty involved. You've moved from the whole idea of a scam to a new argument that it's not worth entering and so that's somehow unethical. Whether it is worth it or not is up to you.

Look at it this way. You draw your own picture not as a part of a contest. There is 0% chance of any return. If you enter a picture into the contest, even at unknown odds, you have a greater than 0% chance of winning. So entering the competition is always a better return than not entering.

Whether you want to enter is your own choice and may depend on other things. If you're drawing to make money a contest (or any other game of chance) is not a good idea. If you're doing it to practice or just because you like drawing then entering is a good idea.

You talk about it obscuring probabilities but there is no evidence of that. The contest never tells you how likely you are to win and so never obscures it. It's up to you to figure out. Because people overestimate their own chances of winning doesn't make it a scam. People are subject to all sorts of illusions that they don't even know about. That's part of life. Those aren't being exploited in this case, the contest provider is just giving people an opportunity to gain something that they wouldn't otherwise have had.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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"Look at it this way. You draw your own picture not as a part of a contest. There is 0% chance of any return. If you enter a picture into the contest, even at unknown odds, you have a greater than 0% chance of winning. So entering the competition is always a better return than not entering."

Woah, that's flat out wrong. There's always a good chance you could sell the picture later on, so yes there is much greater than 0% chance there. And of course, if you compare it to 'drawing for a paid commission' instead, then you're making much more money than the average return from most of these contests.

Here's the facts as I see them... Do these contests state an average rate of return, and provide clear odds of winning? No. Are the creators submitting able to make a clear judgement of the average return and their own individual chances from these contests? No. Are they backed by big publishers or come with clear large audiences for the entries to offset opportunity loss with 'exposure' advertising? No. Do these contests allow for low-creator-cost entries that they have either already created? No. Are these contests subject to clear scrutiny from an honest third party to ensure no unfair procedures or underhand deals? No. Are these contests good deals for the creators? No.

Should artists enter works into these contests? NO.

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Are the creators submitting able to make a clear judgement of the average return and their own individual chances from these contests?

It is not that hard. You can make a rough guess of the number of people that are interested (especially if they've done contests before, or have people replying to the announcement). This doesn't have to be that good, as in just an order of magnitude is probably more than accurate enough. If the sole motivation of creating art for you is monetary, and you are risk averse, then you round or bump up the estimated response with an appropriate safety factor. Others that are more risk-neutral or risk-loving can round down. Yet others with different motivations that would enjoy doing so with little to no payout could end up ignoring it completely.

If you are so risk averse that making wide safety margin assumptions, like say 10 times as many people enter as is watching their announcement, is not enough of a guarantee, then trying to make money from art really is not the right business for you, as you won't be able to make satisfactory judgement of the risks involved in even simple commissions.

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There seems to be a theme in some posts and the article here that art should be driven only by financial gain. While I understand people sometimes end up in situations where money is their first priority and money can be a nice benefit to doing something you like, having your art mindset centered on money just seems sad. Down the line, people with such an approach will have bigger problems with art and their life than losing time to some contest.

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I'm sorry if it offends your sensibilities that all Artists are not ethereal beings who do not seek to make some money from their talent; and only require sunlight and dew drops for nourishment.

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I would say I'm sorry for not acknowledging that some artist need the money or that it is still good to get money for art... except I already said that in the post you replied to.

I've seen way too many artists I know learn very hard lessons about doing art for the wrong reasons. Doing art for money is not bad. Only considering money (or popularity) when doing art, outside of dire or tight situations, can be really detrimental in the long run.

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Sometimes it's best to just let fools be fools and learn lessons the hard way. Warning an artist is fine and all, but if they're hard set on entering a contest, then by all means, they are free to work for free.

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This sounds like pretty much what Publishers Clearing House and Columbia Record Club do. Everyone knows they are in some way being taken to the cleaners, but they sign up anyway.

I've often thought of doing such a contest myself. Folks could read my stories and enter an illustration. First prize would be a job as a paid illustrator for the series. All other entrants that qualified would have their art in the hard bound version of the series, if and when I publish one, and I've never been quite sure what I could do for those that didn't qualify.

My point is, this would be a legitimate contest, though everyone who entered would be doing so with the knowledge that they probably wouldn't get much return on the effort. That's the way contests are.

It's not all that different from the person at the carnival who puts his dollar down on a number. If the wheel doesn't land on his number and he doesn't win the teddy bear, was he scammed? Or was the fun of playing the game and taking the chance what he paid for?

It's only a scam if you pull up the table cloth and find the man standing on a button that insures the player won't win.

Anyway, I know a lot of artists in the fandom who enter contests. And I don't think they do it because they feel assured of getting anything back from it. They do it for the fun of participation, getting their work shown among others to help attract watchers, or just because they needed ideas for something to draw. For them, participation by itself makes them a winner.

They only lose if the contest isn't handled properly and their art doesn't get shown, or if the prize turns out to be not legitimate, or if the contest is rigged so that a specific person will win regardless of what anyone else turns in. One should always check out the reputation of a contest promoter before entering. But otherwise, a contest is a contest. Everyone puts out, but only one person can walk away with first prize. As long as all participants know that, it's not a scam.

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