Contract updates

Hey folks, this blog post is for the creatives the Escape Artists Foundation contracts with, including authors, artists, and narrators. As we mentioned in our recent metacast, part of putting our new American nonprofit status into effect is an update to our contracts. This has now been completed, and you can find the new documents under Pay Rates and Contracts. Every EA publication uses these templates.

Two additional points:

For those of you interested, below the cut you’ll find ‘patch notes’ going into additional summarized detail. As always, if you have any questions please get in touch with your editorial team. Our you can use the contact form on our site.

What you won’t find in this contract update is any new or specific language around artificial intelligence (A.I.) or machine learning tools. Here’s why:

The use of A.I. in the creative fields is a tangle of different issues that encompasses the way these tools are trained, the intellectual property status of their output, and the ways that output is being used or positioned with malintent.

The most pressing expression of these issues as it applies to short genre fiction venues, like us, is A.I. generated prose being submitted in spam-like volumes (see recent Verge and Wired articles for more).

Recent United States Copyright Office decisions are clear that work solely generated by these technologies are not protectable under US copyright laws; they’re not considered ‘products of human authorship’. So from a legal and copyright perspective, purely A.I. generated work isn’t eligible for protection — and therefore can’t be licensed to us for publication.

Our contracts have always required a submitting author warrant (the legal way of saying promise) that they are the author of the work they send us. Submissions we receive which are obviously A.I. generated will be treated the same was as other plagiarised work and declined.

However to aid clarity, we’ll be updating all our submission guidelines to reflect that we do not accept submissions generated purely by automated or machine learning methods.

Yes, this is a simplification of a complex topic. There are lots of unanswered questions: is a grammar checker A.I.?; does using name generators count? How much A.I. usage is acceptable? We don’t know; no one knows. We are actively working with our submission platform, Moksha, and monitoring trusted organizations in both the genre publishing and voice acting industries like SFWA and WGA as their own guidance and recommendations are developed.

If you’d like to learn more about this subject, we recommend this Genre Grapevine post by Jason Sandford, and this round-up created by SFWA.

Contract change notes (v4, March 2023):

  • The donation option has been made much clearer as well as granular; creatives can indicate any value of donation they wish to make
  • Likewise the donation option has been separated from signature
  • The summary of rights on the first page of each contract has had additional detail added for clarity and consistency
  • Changed language around the term ‘episode’ to include multi-episode releases
  • Clarified that fees related to electronic fund transfers (like PayPal) are EA’s responsibility, but fees related to an author’s choice to convert currencies is not
  • Modernized the language around exclusivity waivers for original stories
  • Additional clarity and examples around what Promotional Material is, how we use it, and how it’s not ‘anthology rights’ in the traditional sense
  • Added language about third party distributors and catalogues (many thanks to FIYAH for highlighting this issue)
  • Clarified that an author’s warranties are defined by US federal law (for example, the definition of obscenity). This is to provide comfort for creatives in jurisdictions where content in their stories may be illegal under local law (such as in Russian, where representations of homosexuality are illegal). In addition, this is to avoid recent scenarios where state laws have forced publishers to withdraw publication offers.
  • Expressly state in the kill fee language that no kill fee is owed to a creative who has provided false information resulting in an offer being withdrawn (i.e. no profiting from plagiarism)
  • Dropped the arbitration clause
  • Added a data protection clause
  • Fixed general typos and updated branding

In addition, our narration contract:

  • Incorporates our new Narration Guidelines, so that narrators have all the information up front about what we require from their final audio
  • Provides a fourteen (14) day deadline for any requested retakes, unless the narrator and editorial team have agreed otherwise
  • Shortened the period of time a narrator has to agree to an offer / sign the contract from sixty (60) days down to thirty (30) days, to prevent the common scenario of  protracted silence or delays from a narrator causing a story to miss its target publication date