Scholastic awards change copyright rules after Manhattan teen questions them

A 14-year-old Manhattan girl has learned firsthand the power of speaking up.

Months after Sasha Matthews, of the Upper West Side, tweeted about the copyright policy of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, the organization behind the national teen competition, which gets hundreds of thousands of submissions, announced new participation terms.

Matthews, a cartoonist known for her “Everyday Superheroes” comic book that raises money for the American Civil Liberties Union, questioned why winners of the contest would have to grant the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers Inc. the copyright to their work for two years.

The Alliance, which administers the awards, contacted her shortly after and said it would be reviewing the terms in its annual review over the summer. Last week, with the opening of submissions for this year’s contest, the nonprofit said it will no longer require that two-year grant of exclusive rights.

“Teens who participate in the awards now grant the Alliance a non-exclusive license to promote submitted works to a wide audience through exhibitions, special events, publication, and social media,” Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance, said in a statement.

With this change, the creators keep the copyright, but still allow the Alliance to promote and publish their work.

Matthews was pleasantly surprised when one of the executives involved emailed her dad about the change.

“No one would really expect a kid to make a difference,” she said.

The ninth-grader, who recently drew a comic about the separations of migrant children and their parents, hopes this experience will help encourage “people to do activism even if you think nothing’s going to come of it.”