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offer a prize - liabilities?
Old 12-07-2017, 02:37 PM   #1
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offer a prize - liabilities?

My second book is in the final stages of publication. There are a couple of open questions in this book for which I'd love to have an answer. I'm thinking about offering prize money (not a huge amount - maybe $1,000 per question - TBD) to the first person to provide a satisfactory answer. I would then roll these answers into a second edition of the book.

My worry: getting sued by someone who believes they deserve the prize money and doesn't get it, for whatever reason (wrong answer, incomplete answer, someone else answered first, etc.) Both of my parents have been sued within the last 5 years for activities associated with a business. No one should have to spend their golden years putting up lawyers and the American legal system.

I googled this topic and found some interesting links. There are insurance companies that will insure someone who offers a huge prize for a highly improbable outcome, and gets nailed by a lucky participant. This doesn't apply to my case.

If I give this a try, to limit my liability I'm thinking about requiring all applicants to publish their work with one of the permissive Creative Commons licenses. So, applicants would not directly send me their proposed answers; instead, they would send me a link to their published work. Publication, in this context, could be a PDF submitted to any public-access website.

Have I forgotten anything? I'm aware that anyone can sue anyone for anything, but it seems that the Creative Common licensing angle would go a long way to limiting my exposure.
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Old 12-07-2017, 02:46 PM   #2
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Before doing anything talk with an attorney who specializes in copyright law in your state. It can vary quite a bit from state to state. That should cover the copyright angle. Ditto for the contest rules and such. The easiest thing is to write the rules to prevent or head off a lawsuit.
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Old 12-07-2017, 02:50 PM   #3
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I suppose you need a lawyer [sigh], but back in the day all contest rules included a line like "The decision of the judges is final."

Being stated up front, that seemed to cover it. How low have we sunk?
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Old 12-07-2017, 03:41 PM   #4
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I'm not too worried about getting sued for copyright infringement. I've uploaded a large amount of content to Wikimedia Commons using a Creative Commons license, so I'm familiar with how such licenses work. What's not clear is my exposure for merely offering a small prize. Talking to a lawyer at $500/hr could mean that the lawyer takes home more than the prize winner(s). 😎
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Old 12-07-2017, 04:13 PM   #5
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Well if you don't offer the prize now, someone here might sue you for denial of the prize opportunity
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Old 12-07-2017, 04:22 PM   #6
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What about issuing 1099s to any winners who are US taxpayers?
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Old 12-07-2017, 04:31 PM   #7
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How do you plan to have them respond? I hope not by personal email. And I wouldn't give out your personal mailing address. Maybe a temporary email account? If you use a PO box, how would you determine the 1st if there are 2 correct answers when you get your mail? You will get responses for years......

Your idea of having people "publish" answers and sending you a link (see above) sounds real difficult from a non-writer's perspective. It may not be difficult but I wouldn't go thru the effort. Maybe my not entering the contest opens up someone else's chances.
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Old 12-07-2017, 04:33 PM   #8
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What about issuing 1099s to any winners who are US taxpayers?
Good point. I forgot that the IRS considers prize winnings as taxable income. I know how to generate 1099s, but prize winners may not be excited about providing me with their SS numbers. It would be fun to offer a prize, but if it looks like too much of a hassle or risk - forget it!
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Old 12-07-2017, 06:50 PM   #9
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How about you offer to give credit to the correct answers in your second book? Some people will do stuff for fame instead of money.

"Karen J. from Paramus, New Jersey provided this answer to question 12 in my first book: 'I think one should pay off their mortgage because the risk-free rate...'"
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Old 12-07-2017, 06:59 PM   #10
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Yeah, the answer is yes, send me my dough now -
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Old 12-08-2017, 04:04 AM   #11
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How about you offer to give credit to the correct answers in your second book? Some people will do stuff for fame instead of money.
Attribution is required for the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license:

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You are free:
to share to copy, distribute and transmit the work
to remix to adapt the work
Under the following conditions:
attribution You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).
share alike If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.
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Old 12-08-2017, 08:41 AM   #12
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Sure. My point is that the attribution may be enough compensation/motivation. Money may not be necessary or even the best way to motivate people to answer your questions. If you don't pay money, then you don't have to concern yourself (as much) with the legalities or risks of prize money.
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Old 12-08-2017, 11:04 AM   #13
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Instead of a monetary prize, what if the winner gets to be a minor character in your next book. I think that being a character in a book would be neat...
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Old 12-08-2017, 01:39 PM   #14
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Instead of a monetary prize, what if the winner gets to be a minor character in your next book. I think that being a character in a book would be neat...
I write technical nonfiction. No characters, no drama, no sex, no violence - none of the things that people love .
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