There’s a new contest at MyDreamApp.com for new Mac OS X software. The format for the contest with celebrity judges and open submissions from the user community and prizes for the top 3 entrants sounds like a lot of fun. A lot of fun, that is until you read the fine print.
Participants are forbidden from making their dream app open source if it’s selected as a winner. That’s right, by participating in the contest you agree to give up all interest in your idea and any code you put behind it to the group organizing the contest. If you wanted to give back to the community by offering your awesome idea for free or, better yet, offering it as open source software, you’re out of luck.
But wait, there’s more; the deal gets even better. In return for giving away your idea they’ll offer you a meager 15% royalty from ”net income” from the Mac version of the idea. “Net” in this context means if they spend money advertising, promoting or paying developers/QA/writers to work on the Mac version of the product that gets subtracted from the amount you get 15% of. This is exactly how many musicians get screwed out of the proceeds from their music by record companies. “You know it cost a lot to promote your album, so here’s a free cup of coffee. We look forward to your next effort.”
Just to top it all off, some top finishers get free equipment. The catch? The taxes on the giveaway are your responsibility. So you have to pay out of pocket federal, state and local taxes (let’s say 28%) of the value of the “free” item. I’m going to guess that the 15% of “net income” may not be enough to cover the taxes on the free item.
Did I mention the liability release provision potentially allows the organizers to skip out and not pay you anything? And if they do pay you it will be through PayPal. And if your submission is accepted you may not even be able to claim it was your idea on your resume without their permission. And, worst of all, if the effort required for them to follow through on making your idea a shiny product is more than “reasonable” they can just walk away and develop it for Windows instead. (And pay you nothing.)
It’s an interesting way for some people to feed on the creativity of others, and I guess if people understand all this and still participate, that’s their business. I’m a little dismayed that Woz and other luminaries are participating in something that seems so potentially abusive of it’s “winners”.
This isn’t to suggest that the people organizing the contest will do any of these nasty unkind things, only that they could if they wanted to. I don’t know any of them, and I hope, for the sake of those who participate, they stay honorable.