BIC Is Looking For Your Superheroes - But The More I Looked Into It, The More Problematic It Got


BIC is running an art competition with VIP Comic Con Africa prizes - but there are huge caveats. Make sure you read the fine print very carefully and are properly informed before you enter your artwork. Here's why.

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 22 August 2019
Category: Features
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The BIC superheroes

Stationery company BIC is running an art competition that's offering a VIP prize package to attend this year's Comic Con Africa convention, which will be taking place in Johannesburg on the (long) weekend of 21 to 24 September 2019 at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand.

The competition is inviting any South African citizens or legal residents over the age of 13 (if aged 13 to 18, then with parental consent) to draw their favourite superhero using BIC products and then submit a photograph or scan of the artwork for consideration for the prize. There are no restrictions on artistic ability or experience - you can be a complete novice or a professional.

The VIP prize package comprises:
• One set of double tickets to Comic Con Africa (in other words, you and a friend)
• An autograph and photo opportunity with your favourite celebrity
• Access into the convention at super speed
• Access to the exclusive VIP lounge
• Free snacks and drinks at your fingertips
• A Comic Con Africa goodie bag with loads of fun stuff
• All flights and transportation to and from the convention

It sounds exciting but there are some very important pieces of information buried in the terms and conditions that most people who have already entered the competition have missed.

First, under point 10 of the rules, is this:

"An entrant's entry must not include: any image of any other person without that person's express consent. Entrants warrant that if any such content is included, they have obtained the express consent of the relevant person"

and this:

"An entrant's entry must not include: any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work, any audio-visual or sound recording, or any other item in which intellectual property rights such as trademark, or copyright subsists, unless the entrant is entitled to do so. If an entrant has any doubts about whether they have the right to include any content they must not include it. By including any such content in their entry, the entrant warrants that they have the permission of the relevant copyright owner to do so and that this permission allows the Promoter to use the entry in accordance with these Terms."

What this means is that unless you have permission from, say, Marvel to draw a picture of Captain America, or from DC to draw a picture of Batman, you cannot enter an artwork featuring these characters, or any other fandom characters, including Naruto, Black Panther, Spider-man, Superman, and so forth. If it's a character that you did not create, then you don't have permission. You will have to get permission from the person or corporation that created or owns the character.

You also cannot try to circumvent this rule by, say, drawing a picture of Chris Evans as Captain America unless you have his permission to draw a picture of him.

Artworks that have been entered into the competition that are on display in the gallery
Above: These competition submissions, while fantastic, may, or may not be, permissible.
I specifically queried both these issues (superhero IPs and actors) with the organisers and received, via a third party, the following response from someone in either marketing or legal, which was duplicated as an answer for both questions. I am reproducing it here verbatim - there's no editing (even of grammatical errors and so forth) because I don't want to be accused of misinterpreting this:

"The entrants must not use any DC comic characters or heroes as it was presented in the movies - of course they can draw and send, however BIC will choose to display those figures in any commercial platforms or collaterals then BIC must obtain DC consent - therefore we can judge and award those unique drawings as long as we are not going to commercialize"

Of course, this answer seems to contradict what the rules say and seem to imply that it is ok to send through these types of artworks and that the only snag is that BIC then can't commercialise the art.

Er... what now?

Let's have a look at point 12 in the rules to find out more:

"As a condition of entering in this Competition, the entrants as authors exclusively assign to the organizer all proprietary rights with respect to their content, photo or entry (“Work”), including the rights of representation, reproduction, scanning and adaptation of it for whatever purposes (commercial and or non-commercial purposes), without compensation, royalty, attribution or liability. This assignment transfer is granted for worldwide operation, for the maximum legal term of the copyright protection and its assigns. The Promoter may freely reproduce and adapt and modify the Work or extracts of it by any existing or incoming process of material fixing on any support, in any format and may freely distribute, represent or have the work be represented to the public by any means, for any direct or indirect means. This assignment of his rights is granted by the entrant to the Promoter free of charge. Each entrant warrants to the Promoter full enjoyment of the assigned rights against any trouble, claim or any eviction and undertakes not granting of any transfer of rights to third parties on its Work."

Essentially what this means is that by entering the competition you are giving away the copyright of your work to BIC, whether or not you win. Since BIC seems to be thinking about commercialising the art, which means finding a way to profit from it (and you will not), I would advise against this. You should never give up your copyright unless you are being very, very well compensated for the work you produce or it's part of your contract as a full-time employee of a company.

The choice is yours, however.

When I asked what people should be drawing if they can't draw actors and they can't draw existing superheroes, I was given the following response:

"The entrants are encouraged to make up their own superheroes, and, if they have used a superhero from DC/Marvel, then ipso facto they have already obtained consent. The point of the competition is to encourage creativity and imagination, using BIC® Stationery. For example, an entrant can draw a picture of their teacher, parent or sibling in a superhero costume as an entry."

(Don't forget that you would have to get permission from that teacher/parent/sibling to reproduce his/her likeness.)

On the face of it this it seems that the intention of this competition, which was not communicated properly if you look at the existing entries in the gallery, which are almost all DC and Marvel superheroes, was to encourage artists to look for real-life "superheroes" around them and depict them as such. You can imagine a young boy seeing his older brother doing good in the community and therefore drawing him as a superhero or a young girl being inspired by an amazing teacher who is another type of superhero and drawing a fun interpretation of that.

Unfortunately, when you dive into the rules, as you have just seen, it's not so fun (or clear) anymore. The rules are confusing, the answers I received contradicted the rules (I would go with what the rules say), and the transferring of copyright is a big red flag for me.

The competition closes on 31 August 2019. Should you still wish to enter, make sure you read all the terms and conditions. You can submit your entries via the web site.

BIC Superhero Competition: Enter, Terms And Conditions, Gallery


Tags: Arts And Culture, Comics, Speculative Fiction


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South African Comics
• All The Coverage: Reviews, art showcases, and news from the world of South African (and occasionally Southern African) comics.
  • BIC Competition
  • Werewolves Versus Crowdfunding
  • Siri Watu #5 Exclusive
  • 5 Zombie Questions: Zapiro
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