15 April
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Review: 2019 Northern Territory Literary Awards


Arts Law regularly reviews the terms and conditions of competitions and rates them out of five stars. Our review looks broadly at the terms and conditions of a competition. In particular, we look closely at how a competition deals with an entrant’s copyright and moral rights and consider this in light of the prize.  Entrants should always take into account the possible profile-raising which may result from being a finalist or winner.

By accepting the terms and conditions of a competition, entrants should be aware that they may be entering a legally binding contract.

For more information, see our free information sheet on competition conditions. Artists are welcome to contact Arts Law for legal advice on the terms of a competition. We also invite competition organisers to contact Arts Law for best practice assistance to make their terms and conditions fairer for artists.

Please note: Prior to February 2018, Arts Law’s rated out of five stars only the terms of a competition which dealt with copyright and moral rights (using our previous rating systems  https://www.artslaw.com.au/advocacy/prizes-and-competitions). Arts Law’s competition reviews are now more holistic, such that our rating out of five stars now reflects a broad review of all the terms and conditions of the competition.


This month, Arts Law has reviewed the terms and conditions of the 2019 Northern Territory Literary Awards. This is an annual competition conducted by the Northern Territory Library (the “Library”), which consists of seven different awards.

The deadline for this competition is Monday 29 April 2019 and entries are open generally to residents of the Northern Territory (with the exception of the Library’s staff).

Read the terms and conditions of this competition here. Note: The website requires that you must create an account to view the Terms and Conditions.

Arts Law has rated this competition

The aim of the competition is to celebrate unpublished literary work and, as stated on the website,  the ‘achievements of established and emerging writers, storytellers and prominent Territorians.’

All winners of all seven awards receive a NT Writers’ Centre membership and a masterclass. It is not clear what the masterclass entails. All seven awards have the same terms and conditions, however, the prize money varies, ranging from $500 to $1000.


All entrants (including winners) retain the copyright in their works, which is great to see.

Note, for 6 of the 7 awards entries must not have been previously published. The terms state that the Library “reserves first publication rights”, however, this is not limited to winners. Under the current wording, arguably all entrants must give the Library the right of first publication, even those who don’t win. The terms should be clearer about this. If the Library only intends to publish winners and possibly also finalists, then this should be expressly stated. Also, there should be more details about what this publication entails. Publication should be clearly defined, outlining the way the Library intends to use the entries e.g. where will entries be published? In a book or magazine or somewhere else? On the Library’s website? Will copies be sold commercially? If so, will there be royalties paid? And for how long can the Library publish an entry?

This is particularly relevant if publishing in print, whereas if publishing in a particular edition online it would make sense if that was for an indefinite period of time.

The terms state that entrants can publish elsewhere after first publication, which is a good thing for the entrants. It would seem then that the entrants are giving the Library a non-exclusive licence once the Library has first published, although for clarity this should be expressly stated.

The terms also state that the Library has the right to withhold a winning or shortlisted entry from publication. It does not outline what happens to the right of first publication in this situation. It should be stated that this right reverts back to the entrant if the Library refuses to publish.

Moral rights

Under the law, an author has moral rights including the right to be credited for their work and for their work to be used in a way that doesn’t affect the author’s integrity (that is, no changes to the work which affects their artistic integrity). Disappointingly, the terms and conditions don’t mention moral rights. Best practice is to include a positive statement that the Library will always attribute the author when their work is used. Further, there should be a term that the Library will not make any changes (or at least any unreasonable changes) to the works without first seeking permission – particularly as entries may be edited for publication.

What else?

Entrants should be aware that by entering this competition they agree to the Library providing their contact details to the NT Writers’ Centre and media organisations. The terms should clarify the reason for doing so.

Under 18 year-olds can enter some of the prizes. Therefore, competition should require the approval or permission of a parent or guardian.

To conclude

This competition offers cash prizes and an opportunity for authors to be published, which is great. Arts Law would have given a higher rating if the terms were clearer around what rights the authors are giving the Library around publication, and if there were terms dealing with moral rights of authors.

Arts Law has spoken with the Northern Territory Library about this review. Due to the upcoming deadline, Arts Law understands that it is difficult to make any adjustments to the terms and conditions this year. The Northern Territory Library has indicated it appreciates Arts Law’s work in supporting artists across the country, and that it will be working towards making changes to its terms and conditions for 2020.

You can lodge a query with us here if you would like to obtain advice from Arts Law about this competition.

Further Information

Please email us at [email protected] to tell us about any competitions or prizes you think we should check.

See more about Arts Law’s campaign to improve competition terms and conditions in the Prizes and Competitions section.