DeviantART has recently been promoting a collaborative project for Neil Gaiman, which you may have seen mentioned in your message center. This project, called "A Calendar of Tales," asks artists to submit artwork based on short stories (written by Gaiman) that are inspired by the 12 months (and twitter followers' suggestions).
DeviantART, for its part, offers potential entrants and general users a badge that commemorates the project and a journal skin that uses a photo of Gaiman shot exclusively for the project. The journal skin also advertises BlackBerry and their "Keep Moving" campaign.
BlackBerry's "Keep Moving" campaign consists of three crowdsourcing projects that seem to help promote their new BlackBerry 10 phone. The other two projects involve Alisha Keys and Robert Rodriguez.
While twelve artists' work will be picked by Gaiman (one for each month/story), this really isn't a competition. There are no prizes, other than the thrill a devoted Gaiman fan might have at the idea of their literary hero seeing their artwork and possibly picking it for the project.
So what happens to the entries?
According to BlackBerry's project website's terms and conditions:
"PHASE 2 AWARDS (12): Each Award Recipient's Submission will be featured on the Website, included in a Neil Gaiman calendar of tales microsite and printed calendar of tales to be distributed at a later date, and incorporated in a eBook. Exact location and length of Website feature, calendar availability, and extent of incorporation in eBook to be at the discretion of RIM and Neil Gaiman.
PHASE 2 FINALIST AWARDS (up to 240): Each Finalist Award Recipient's Submission will be posted in a gallery on the Neil Gaiman calendar of tales microsite. Exact placement of Submission in calendar of tales microsite and location and length of Website posting to be at the discretion of RIM and Neil Gaiman."
This means that 12 artists will basically have their artwork seen in an ebook, on a website/microsite, and a printed Calendar of Tales. It's my understanding that the artists will be credited for their contributions to the project, but won't receive any monetary compensation (and possibly not even a copy of the ebook or printed version). If you decide to enter just for exposure, keep in mind that people typically don't look at a piece of art and say "I love this. I wonder who made it and if they can work for me." Gaiman admits on his tumblr that you shouldn't enter for the sole reason of exposure: "It's for fun, and should definitely not be seen as a way to get professional artists to do work for free for a promise of exposure."
Gaiman has stated on his journal that, "In the end, we're hoping for a paper Calendar that will benefit charity, and an amazing app (or possibly a website) with all the stories, and all the art of various kinds up for everyone." I couldn't find anything on Blackberry's website about whether a cost would be associated with an ebook/printed Calendar of Tales or what the money would be used for, so it's hard to say if any profit would go to a charity or not. The project website states that the printed version is a limited edition, so it's doubtful millions of the printed edition would be made and sold. If they really will donate any profits to charity, it would be nice if BlackBerry would say that. It might help reassure artists and encourage more entries.
However, BlackBerry does get a lot of advertising mileage out of this and the other "Keep Moving" projects, since it is related to their BlackBerry 10 phone release.
This potential for BlackBerry to make a profit off of inexperienced, starry-eyed artists has many people concerned. From the project website's (current as of writing this) terms and conditions:
"By participating in this Promotion, and to the extent allowed by law, participants (i) grant a worldwide, royalty-free, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sub-licensable (including the right to sublicense to further third parties), unconditional, fully paid-up and transferable license to use his/her first name, last name and create derivative works of all Submissions (whether acceptable or not, regardless of the form they take, and including, without limitation, any and all copyrights, trademarks, contract and licensing rights, moral rights or "droit moral" and other intellectual property and proprietary rights in Submissions) to RIM, (ii) agree that RIM may license and assign all such rights to Ambassador and others (collectively "Licensees"), (iii) grant RIM and Licensees the absolute right and permission to edit, modify, cut, rearrange, add to, delete from, reproduce, encode, store, transmit, produce, publish, rent, lease, distribute (directly or indirectly through multiple tiers), post, broadcast, publicly perform or display, adapt, exhibit and/or otherwise use or reuse or exploit (without limitation as to when or to the number of times used) and use the content of and elements embodied in the Submissions and the Submissions themselves in perpetuity (except in France, for the duration of rights) in any and all media including but not limited to digital and electronic media, television, cinema, computer, DVD, CD, Competition Site(s), print, audio and audiovisual media (whether now existing or hereafter devised), in any language, throughout the world, and in any manner, for trade, advertising, promotional, commercial, or any other purposes without further review, notice, approval, consideration or compensation to participant or any third party,…"
While the artists still own their work and can do as they please, the wording of the current terms and conditions seems to imply that BlackBerry can do whatever they want with the art without compensation to the artist. BlackBerry, via Gaiman's tumblr, is trying to reassure people that the terms and conditions will be rewritten to reflect the fact that the art will only be used for the Calendar of Tales project: "There were concerns raised that BlackBerry would have the right to profit from your artwork after the project ended. Clarification: Again, not the intent at all! We just want to make Neil's Calendar of Tales come to life. So the images you submit, and give us permission to use, will only be used for this project and this project only. We will be making the Terms & Conditions crystal clear on this point so there is no further confusion."
Gaiman backs up this assertion (also on his tumblr): "If something commercial, not being done for charity, is done with these — say I did an actual book you could buy in the shops, and I wanted to use the pictures as illustrations, then we'd go back to the illustrators and get their permission and work out a fair payment" And "I've talked to BlackBerry about it: they are embarrassed, and told me they are drafting a new set of Terms and Conditions which actually reflect that the art is solely for use in relation to the Keep Moving Project, A Calendar of Tales, and is not to be used by them for any commercial purposes beyond the project."
Until the new terms and conditions page is revealed, it's hard to confirm this.
I am confident that Neil Gaiman has the best of intentions for this project – something where people all over the world could contribute and share in the joy of creating (without a real concern for money). It's a wonderful idea. But…BlackBerry's involvement and promotion of their new phone on the project pages makes this friendly collaboration appear more like a way to advertise their phone and make money from free art, rather than paying artists for their hard work to help them sell the BlackBerry 10. It may not actually BE this way, but that's how it comes off as.
It's presumable that if BlackBerry is sponsoring free journals on DeviantART, that BlackBerry gave DeviantART some sort of monetary compensation. It's also presumable that Neil Gaiman, Alicia Keys, and Robert Rodriguez received some form of financial compensation for their part. If BlackBerry can pay these people, why can't they offer something to chosen participants? Please note that I have no sources for this assumption, but it's something that seems logical.
Why is free art such a heated issue?
Artists are already heavily undervalued. People tend to think art is easy or fast to do, and that it's not worth very much when there's so much of it out there. That art should be done for the love of creating it, not for a greedy profit. But…would you ask your dentist to clean your teeth for free or $10 because it looks easy and only takes an hour or less? There are many professional artists that depend on selling art at a decent wage so they can pay their bills and not require a second job. When art is constantly being given away, the desire to pay for it decreases. Its one thing if the art is done for free for charity or a cause you care about (although a lot of non-profits do have the money to spend on art, according to my design professor), but it's another if it promotes a company and their product.
Viewpoints of why working for free can be bad:
Before you decide whether or not to submit art to the Calendar of Tales project, please read all of the information you can about it. Look at it from all sides of the conversation. I'm not going to tell you whether or not you should do it. I just want people to be aware of the concerns.
If you still want to contribute to the project because you just want to have fun or participate in something related to Neil Gaiman, keep in mind you have to be 18 years or older and it has to be a brand new work (entirely made by yourself and doesn't infringe copyrights/trademarks) created for the Calendar of Tales. Supposedly you can have a parent submit for you if you're under 18, according to Gaiman here: neil-gaiman.tumblr.com/post/43…
P.S. I know on the DeviantART notice in the message center it says"Neil Gaiman is challenging you" (and there might've been one about him wanting to work with "you", I forget), but he's not actually contacting you as a specific individual. It's not a personal "you" but a collective "you". As in…every person reading the announcement. It's so bizarre to see how many people think that Gaiman saw their work and was trying to ask them specifically if they would illustrate for him.
P.P.S. If all you want is for Neil Gaiman to see your art (or fanart of his work), he is active on tumblr and responds to a lot of people. Odds are you could probably show it to him there without submitting it to the project page, if the BlackBerry part is really troubling you.