Sky's crowdsourcing experiment: not so bad

At, Oliver Luft protests about Sky News’s efforts to crowdsource innovative RSS applications.

Sky is planning to award a prize of at least £1,000 (possibly more) to the winner of its competition. In return, Luft suggests that the company plans to “take quite a bit”. Specifically

— an exclusive royalty free worldwide license in all media in the Finalist’s Contribution for a period of 3 months from the date of the submission


— after that 3 month period, Sky shall have a non-exclusive royalty free worldwide license in perpetuity in all media in the Finalist’s Contribution.

Here’s how Luft sees it:

    So the position is a news company owned by a billionaire is asking for someone else to design it a cutting edge technological development, for it to use for free, forever?

Well, not exactly for free. There is the prize money. And the chance of selling your genius code to other media companies after the three-month exclusivity period — with an all-important reference customer (Sky) under your belt.

Sky’s terms don’t seem too onerous if you assume that the winner is going to be a teenaged code jockey operating out of his or her bedroom in Croydon. Which is probably a fair assumption.

The way in which Sky will license the winning software leaves copyright with the original coder. This appears to follow the rules laid down by this week’s Pact framework. Two years in the making, Pact lays out a framework of rights for digital content producers who code, or content, for broadcasters.

Luft says it’s similar to the T&Cs offered by Channel 4 in a separate contest. If so, both are a lot better than the terms offered to budding geniuses by The Big What Adventure. This is an attempt at crowdsourcing creative advertising ideas staged by TBWA, the achingly hip ad agency that works for Apple amongst others.

Here are the T&Cs from that effort:

    In submitting your user content you understand that TBWA and its clients will be able to use, reproduce, develop, implement, adapt, distribute and promote all user content in any form and in all media, anywhere in the world, for any purpose, without payment to you.

And as if that wasn’t enough:

    All intellectual property rights in the content available on thebigwhatadventure belong to TBWA or its licensors. All rights are reserved. No such content may be reproduced without TBWA’s prior written permission.

All of which is rather hilarious given the advertising industry’s long history of plagiarizing other people’s work. In this respect, TBWA’s track record is less than spotless.

As things go, Sky’s offer ain’t so bad. Yes, they could have gussied it up by taking an open source approach to licensing. But in the end, that’s going to be a decision for the code jockey, not Sky News.

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