After all the hype and excitement over it new residency program for writers, Amtrak officially announced guidelines for the new program. For starters, it will be titled (in all its social media-fueled glory), #AmtrakResidency, and they opened the online application on March 8. But a closer examination of the program's official terms has some writers tempering their interest. Specifically, they are balking at the fact that Amtrak wants rights to their submitted writing samples.
The issue arises over Section 6 of the #AmtrakResidency's official terms. The "Grant of Rights" section reads, in part:
In submitting an Application, Applicant hereby grants Sponsor the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy Applicant’s Application, in whole or in part, for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing, and to sublicense such rights to any third parties.
Included in the application for the residency program is a required writing sample (no more than 10 pages), to ensure that Amtrak is sending actual serious writers on a residency and not just someone looking for a free ride. After reading the quoted portion of Section 6 above, however, writers are questioning whether or not they cede rights to their submitted samples simply by applying. The fear is, essentially, that Amtrak can do whatever it wants with submitted work, even work that they have been planning to use elsewhere.
Let Amtrak steal your work and publishing rights by applying to its "writer's residency" http://t.co/UOYcHn2mPx— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) March 9, 2014
On the Electric Literature blog, Connor Ferguson wrote, "To our non-legally-trained eyes, the terms come just short of granting Amtrak actual ownership of writers’ application materials ... Amtrak is demanding an exorbitant level of control over applicants’ writing — writing which, it should be noted, isn’t being submitted in order to be considered for publication." Miral Sattar, on BiblioCrunch, described the terms as not exactly "author-friendly." Alexander Chee, the writer who serves as the inspiration for the residency program, tweeted that he was talking with Amtrak to "address [writers'] concerns." The Tumblr that was once an unaffiliated hype-machine for #AmtrakResidency is now dedicated to chronicling writers' beefs with Section 6.