Just when you thought EA’s publicity issues couldn’t get much worse in 2013, they’ve once again upped the ante. The company is hosting a competition in February 2014 called EA Hackathon that will put small, independent development teams in competition with each other for prizes. The teams have to submit an original working prototype of an Android, iOS or Windows app. The grand prize is a trip to one of EA’s development studios with travel and lodging accommodations provided by EA. Seems pretty harmless on the surface right? However, once you dig further into the technical details and limitations, things take a sleazy turn.
By entering this contest and submitting work, the development team is giving EA permission to do whatever it wants with their creation. EA isn’t obligated to give the developers anything or pay them royalties. EA says it’s not “claiming ownership rights” to any developer’s work, but it doesn’t have to considering the rights they are claiming. An excerpt from the EA Hackathon 2014 rules page states EA can take any entry and, “reproduce, modify, publish, create derivative works from, and display such submissions in whole or in part, on a worldwide basis, and to incorporate it into other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed, including for promotional or marketing purposes.”
Let’s say one of the creations from this event eventually turns into the biggest mobile game of all time and the developers claim it’s a blatant copy of their work. They can’t do anything about it because EA can argue it already had a similar project in the works. The developers will have no case because they would have waived their right to make such claims.
This isn’t a two-way street either. Although EA can take ideas and do whatever it wants, the developers can only use assets provided by EA or their own original assets. Developers have “no right, title or interest in or to any Contest Assets except as otherwise granted by Sponsor, and any use of the Competition Assets (including use of the Entry that contains Contest Assets) other than as permitted by these Official Rules may constitute copyright and/or trademark infringement.”
In other words, EA can take your stuff, but you can’t take theirs.
The losing teams will not only walk away without an awesome prize, they will also be losing out on what could be a potentially amazing concept for a game. And for what? A flight in coach to an EA Studio? It’s not like EA is promising a job or anything.
It’s also irritating how EA is framing this contest. They’re making it out to be a game complete with a main storyline and optional side quests. As if people working their butts off to make a working game isn’t enough of a challenge, EA is throwing in more stuff to do that probably involves signing away more rights.
This is a joke. Developers should take their ideas and avoid this at all costs. If you’re going to give a publisher rights to your ideas and assets, at least get paid for them first.