I saw the

Apps for Libraries Idea Challenge come up on my feed reader from Unshelved, and I immediately thought of this shelf reading app:

and that its creator should enter.  But then I realized that the prize is only $1,000.00, and this app could do much better than that.  The low prize brought to mind this NPR article I read this morning.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the challenge isn’t just an attempt to scoop up ideas to patent.  So I took a little bit closer look at the rules.  And here’s the catch:

By submitting your App Idea, entry and/or Comment in the Challenge, you voluntarily forfeit all proprietary rights in the App Idea, entry and/or Comment and convey full ownership to Sponsor.

But there’s more.  Under a separate heading:

By submitting an App Idea and/or Comment in the Challenge, entrants understand and agree that, as the owner of all rights in the App Ideas, entries, and Comments submitted, Sponsor may post, publish, display, use, reproduce, distribute, edit, translate, exploit, and create derivative works from the App Ideas, the entries (including any visual materials), and any Comments for any commercial or non-commercial purposes in any manner and in any medium now known or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity without restriction and without further obligation to entrants or any other party.  (emphasis mine)

Watch those commas, kids!  Someone quickly scanning that could read it as if the entrant, AS THE OWNER, is agreeing to the allow the sponsor to use their work.   But this is spelling out for you precisely what, AS THE OWNER, the Sponsor intends to do with your entry, whether you have any hope of winning or not.

I’d love to see this shelf reading app in every library.  It’s a rare instance of library technology that doesn’t make the librarian obsolete.  Not yet, anyway.  Someone’s still got to put those books in order.  (Now if he could just make it work without the cost of having to re-label every book in the library.)  But I don’t think this contest, or any contest like it, is really the way to go about advancing worthwhile ideas.

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