Now owned by Amazon, they are causing real harm.
Withoutabox is a monopoly that is causing serious harm to independent film using unfair and anti-competitive business practices to drive up entry fees making it harder than ever for film festivals to survive.
Here is the ugly truth you may not know about Withoutbox. This information is taken directly from their website or information they email to festivals.
GREEDY COMMISSIONSThey demand nearly 20% of the entry fees that they get from the festivals! This causes festivals to dramatically raise their prices to make up for this incredibly greedy commission. Even if your festival attracts people, you may not have all your operations costs covered, and many festivals have gone bankrupt after using Withoutabox.
EXCESSIVE FEESThey charge a mandatory set-up fee just for a festival to be listed on the site, ranging anywhere from $500 to $2000. Again, this causes festivals to jack up their entry fees to compensate for these costs.
FORCED MARKETING PACKAGESThey force festivals to buy a “Marketing Package”, the cheapest of which starts at $750 and goes all the way up to $3,500 per month. Most festivals can barely survive as it is without having to be forced to buy so called “marketing packages.” The majority of these “marketing packages” are basically are just a very spammy email that they send out to an aging database of filmmakers.
PROFITING FROM NON-PROFITSFor non-profit festivals that do not have entry fees, Withoutabox charges $2000 to be listed on their site. From non-profits!
POACHING ORGANIC TRAFFICThey force festivals to place a link on the festivals’ website as prominently as the festivals’ own Call For Entries link so that they can poach submissions from organic traffic that originates outside of Withoutabox. Why should festivals be forced to redirect organic traffic to Withoutabox and then pay 20% of those entry fees to them?
From their rules: “A link to the Withoutabox submission form must be placed prominently on partner websites, call for entries materials, and any related email announcements. Placement of wabLINKs on partner websites must be as prominent or more prominent than any in-house submission method options”
MONOPOLISTIC CONTROLWithoutabox stifles competition and severely limits the options of filmmakers by requiring complete exclusivity and monopolistic control. If you dare use another third party submission processor other than Withoutabox, they will send you a letter demanding that you immediately cease using any competitor or you will be kicked off their site.
“Withoutabox partnerships are exclusive so no other third-party submission sites may be utilized concurrently.”
This drastically restricts competition and perpetuates a monopoly where festivals are forced to charge higher and higher entry fees to make up for these severely encumbering rules.
UNSUSTAINABLE FOR MOSTBy the time festivals pay all the mandatory fees and the nearly 20% commission, it is very possible that Withoutabox will have made more money than the festivals who work tirelessly to promote and foster independent film.
SHADY “DISCOUNTS”Withoutabox forces festivals to give mandatory “discounts” to filmmakers that pay Withoutabox membership fees. This causes festivals to raise their entry fees to compensate, which is passed on directly to the filmmakers. They then require filmmakers to pay costly membership fees directly to them in order to have access to these so called “discounts.” The worse part is that if the filmmaker does not pay for the discount then Withoutabox just keeps the so called discount anyway. Some say this is tantamount to fraud.
HOARDING YOUR MONEYWithoutabox holds the festivals entry fees they receive for up to 45 days so they can earn interest on the fees before paying festivals their share.
RESTRICTING YOUR OPTIONSWithoutabox does not allow festivals to offer entry fee coupons or discounts to filmmakers that might undercut the prices offered on Withoutabox.
FORCE FILMMAKERS TO LICENSE RIGHTSBuried in their terms of Service, Withoutabox makes outrageous claims on the intellectual property rights of entrants. This forces festival organizers have to deal with the fallout of such hidden consequences of using Withoutabox.
From their Terms of Service: “You grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license right to use, copy, reproduce, transmit, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display any information, data, Work, or any other information associated with your Work (collectively the “Submitted Materials”) you submit to us via the Services in any media or format.”
HORRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICEThey have a hostile and unresponsive customer service model. In fact, Withoutabox has one of the worst reputations of bad customer service you are ever likely to find. Try calling them. Oh, that’s right. They don’t list a customer service phone number publicly and they can take over a week to reply to a single email. Basically, their approach toward customer service reflects the contempt with which they treat their festivals and filmmakers.
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