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Oh, Dear, Canada: Government Issues Contest for Logo

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 13, 2015

Canadian designers were startled when their government issued a contest, challenging design students to submit their original designs for a logo marking the 150 anniversary of the country’s confederation. Not only were the students requested to submit their work on speculation – only the winner would receive a paltry prize of $5,000 CA – but finalists were expected to transfer their intellectual property rights and waive their moral rights to their work. (Unlike the United States, Canadian copyright law defines moral rights, which include the right of attribution, the right to be published anonymously or pseudonymously, and the right to the integrity of the work.)

As Adrian Jean, President of the Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) told the Ottowa Citizen, designers were particularly startled since the contest government had been engaging with the organization after an earlier attempt at a logo design flopped. The announcement of the contest in early December caught Canadian design organizations by surprise. GDC immediately issued an open letter to the government protesting the contest and within a few days had garnered thousands of signatures on an online petition.

Philippe Lamarre, president of the Société des designers graphiques du Québec (SDGQ), also submitted a letter decrying the contest, and, with the Association of Registered Graphic Designers (RGD), joined GDC in supporting the petition. RGD marshaled their student members for a #mytimehasvalue social media campaign in mid-January. Student designers were encouraged to post on social media photos of themselves holding up signs with the hashtag. Supporters – teachers, parents, and friends – followed suit with similar images stating “My students’ time has value,” etc.

The Canadian government persisted in carrying on with the contest. A spokesperson for Heritage Minister Shelly Glover told the Global News “[Our youth] are our future and we want to give them a unique opportunity to be involved in the celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday.” The logo contest closed on January 23.

Below: A video produced by the Heritage Ministry cheerfully asks student designers to “join history in the making,” unfortunately by working for free.

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