Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wants to Publish Poetry Contest Winners

ogden nash
Dear Rich: I am publishing an anthology in which I will include poems from my blog poetry contest. Several poets entered the contest and when I've tried to find them on the internet, to get permission, I can't find them. Since they willingly sent their poems to my blog, do I need their permission to put them in my anthology? I give them credit, of course, with their names and the reference to my blog contest. Or would it be better to delete the ones I can't contact? Publishing poems without express or implied permission is infringement unless you can claim fair use (which seems unlikely in your situation). However, we have a feeling you will be able to publish without perishing.
Are you sure the poets haven't consented? We haven't seen your contest solicitation but every writing contest we have seen provides some rules about rights, particularly if a selection is chosen as a winner or runner-up. Did your solicitation contain any statement that could arguably imply permission? Even if not, you may be able to argue that furnishing an entry implied that the winners expected to be published and consented by way of an implied license. We can't guarantee that argument will work in your case but it would succeed, for example, when a letter to the editor is published. (Implied licenses and related permission are discussed in this poetry-related entry.) (Certainly, your future contests should contain a statement that winning entries will be published.)
Should you publish? We can't tell you whether to go ahead without permission. As a general rule we would be more inclined to proceed without permission for an online, electronic anthology than for a print publication. That's because the online entry can be easily taken down if there is a complaint, while the print publication is irreversible. In any case, if you can't find the poets online, it's equally possible that the poets won't find your anthology, in which case, the risk is diminished substantially.

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