A serious caution for all aspiring manga artists, concerning Shonen Jump's Manga award. If you're planning to enter, or your friend is planning to enter, forward them to this journal.
As a whole, Shonen Jump, who in all other respects is my favourite 'comic' magazine, is great. They've steered clear of major controversy, they try to publish non-offensive, youth-friendly material, and they try and pull together great creative teams and talent and produce some of the world's most famous series. It's really cool of them to open up their competition to international audiences...
So the basic spin of the competition that Shonen Jump is running is dazzling. Manga artists and enthusiasts from all over the world are invited to submit their work, the only requirements being page size and appropriate penmanship. Anyone can enter. There are three categories, one is Japanese, one is English, one is Chinese. Each individual category has a prize of 500,000 yen (around $5000), and then the overall winner recieves an additional 500,000 yen. The contest entries are published on their website, where the winners are selected by public vote, and the overall winning entries -may- be published in Shonen Jump magazines.
Awesome! Except... for one little detail.
'All rights including the publication rights, the screening stage rights, adaptation to animation or live action video of the submitted works shall belong to Shueisha.'
''All rights including the publication rights, the screening stage rights, adaptation to animation or live action video of the submitted works shall belong to Shueisha.''
This sentence states, that if you enter, you will no longer have any rights over your work. Whether you win or lose.
Three people will be lucky and sign away all their rights for $5,000. But thousands of other entrants are going to sign away their legal rights to their creations for a grand total of $0. (it says -submissions- are subject to this) Thousands of young, aspirational, creative, artists are going to do this. Artists who don't necessarily know what it is that they're doing.
While I admit, it's hardly a concealed sentence, and so people should be able to read and understand it and decide for themselves whether it's worth it, from what I've seen from the majority of comments posted on multiple online forums, most people who do see and read that sentence are completely clueless as to it's meaning. They ask 'what does this sentence mean?' and assume it's some complex legal concept that can't possibly mean what it -seems- to mean. You can't blame someone who is, most likely a high school student, for not knowing about publication rights.
However, if you do understand that you'll no longer legally own your entry (and all the intellectual property used within it) and will no longer retain any control over it, effectively having to pretend it doesn't exist- and that is acceptable to you, then go ahead and enter. There are, potentially, absolutely incredible pay-offs if you win. But if you lose, you lose your manga. If you are not willing to play such high stakes, or if you feel the story you were going to enter is simply too good or too dear to gamble away on the small chance of winning and the high chance of losing, don't enter. It's a great idea to enter- but only with a story you consider disposable.
- Please share this information with other artists you think who might be affected, thank you!-
Questions and Answers for Entrants
Q: Why would Shonen Jump want -all- the rights?
A: Firstly... security. If they have all the rights, you do not have the option to contest or to sue them for anything, either within the competition or further down the line (my buissiness-law student friend informs me that this is almost certainly the case. So that if they publish a similar idea later, you can't sue them, as if you did they'd have to put a series on hiatus while the court case was ongoing) Secondly, (and this is common in competitions) so that if you're good, and you win, and they want your series, there is no other option than for it to be published through them, as they see fit. These things are great for them, but leaves you in a completely vulnerable position.
Q: If they want my manga so much that they take the rights, and they want a serialisation, that means they'll want me to write/draw it, right? I'll be a mangaka, right!? They said they'd publish it, right!?
A: No, they said they might publish contesting entries. Even if they later decide to serialise your manga, it's very unlikely they'd want you- someone who lives in a foreign country, has no work visa, and doesn't speak or write japanese, to work on it. As you no longer own the rights, you have no say in whether or not they chose to do this, and have nothing to bargain with.
Q: Is this a normal way to run a competition in Japan?
A: I've no idea. Would you enter if it was normal? If you want Shonen Jump to see your work, and don't like the conditions, send them your portfolio.
Q: Is one sentence on a website, which doesn't look to be written by qualified legal practitioner, really valid as a legal agreement?
Q: If I email them and they tell me that my rights won't be taken, then should I hold them to that?
A: No, the publicly announced conditions would probably override any emails with website moderators, if it ever came to a conflict. They didn't write it into the entry conditions for no reason.
Q: Surely they only take your rights if you win the 500,000 yen?
A: 'All rights including the publication rights, the screening stage rights, adaptation to animation or live action video of the submitted works shall belong to Shueisha.'
Q: Do Shonen Jump really need all those rights in order to run the competition?
A: No. They'd need something more in line with the submissions section dA's terms of service. They'd need a non-exclusive global licence or an exclusive global licence limited to the time-scale of the competition. They would not, in any conceivable universe, require the rights to live-action-video in order to put your art on their website. They're just protecting themselves, legally, at your expense.
Q: Will they own the files I send in, or what? It wasn't specific.
A: The conditions claim that they will have 'all rights' over your entry. The fact it excludes nothing means it includes every character, concept and setting presented within your entry.
Q: Can't I just make a sacrificial story, and submit that?
A: Absolutely, go ahead!
Q: What can I do with my manga after this competition?
A: It's not your manga any more. You have the right to use it in your portfolio, but that's it.
Q: Do you seriously think Shonen Jump's lawyers will come after me if I continue to work on my manga after the competition?
A: I honestly don't think that, I think it's so they can protect themselves. But if you become successful, they may become interested in claiming their property. And the fact that you've already given Shonen Jump the rights will mean no other publisher will want it.
Q: I've already entered and I want out! What can I do?
A: Write to them requesting your exemption from the competition. If you're under parental care, get your parent to write in instead. They probably won't care about keeping your entry and will allow you to back out.
A: How do I get my manga's rights back after the competition?
Q: Probably just ask for them. If you don't win the competitions, they've no reason to place any value on your story, and won't want any trouble over it.
Disclaimer: I do not do this with any insight into Shonen Jump's intentions, but as someone who is both a published artist and who has consulted widely published authors, and can offer at least a little insight into creator's rights, and what appears to be being offered and requested in lieu of entering this competition. If you have further questions, please write a comment and I'll help if I can.