I’ve been around the internet long enough to remember when (and honestly, it may feel like it now, for people who are getting into it for the first time) it felt like some kind of wild frontier where anything was possible and everything was going on and anyone could find a niche and make a name (no matter how small) for herself.
But now/and now it seems like the same old same old. Celebrities show up and are just as popular as they are in real life.
I had been thinking about this in terms of Huffington Post, where it seems that any fool who can spell science can be considered a science blogger, if people recognize their names. And I have been growing more and more irritated about the Huffington Post, because no one who writes for it gets paid, but on the backs of their unpaid labor, certain folks become “important people” the media feels it should take seriously.
That irks me, the idea that what you write for free can be used to further the careers of the wealthy.
So, you can imagine that I about fell over when I read this at Coble’s yesterday. But I went to the website and I read through their fine print and lo and behold:
All content submitted to truuconfessions.com becomes the sole property of True Media Inc. We reserve the right to publish confessions at our own discretion. We also reserve the right to use and modify confessions as standard procedure for True Media Inc. When you confess on any of the truu confessions channels, you are granting us the right to a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, fully sub-licensble, exclusive right to use, reproduce, modify, translate, adapt, publish, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, display, and delete such content in other works in any form, media or technology now known or hereafter developed.
Wow. See especially that last sentence. When you write something on their site, they own it. Not only do they own it, but they’re claiming that they have the right to reproduce it, modify it, publish it, and create derivative works from it and to stop others from doing so.
What does this mean in practical terms?
Say you have a husband named “Rope.” (And I’m picking “Rope” because I don’t know any men named Rope, so the chances of there being a man named Rope who fits the following scenario is slim to none.) Okay, so you have a husband named Rope and he’s in the military overseas and he likes for you to dress up like Santa Clause and read Walt Whitman to him over webcam and you come to find out that he’s letting his buddies watch and at first you’re embarrassed and then you kind of find it funny.
And you confess to this on their site.
Now, five years later, a movie comes out, maybe called “Cable,” about a guy overseas whose wife dresses up like Santa Claus and reads Walt Whitman to him and his buddies and it turns out to be the The Dead Poets’ Society of the decade. Teachers take their kids to watch it. English majors start hitting on ROTC guys. The actor who plays the spunky wife, i.e. you, goes on to win an Oscar.
Get nothing. It’s your story, but after you tell it to them, they can do what they want with it. They don’t even have to pretend like they’re not ripping you off, because you gave them the right to do that.
Usually, frankly, your intellectual property isn’t worth much, if anything. But it’s still yours.
And there are folks who like to make a living off of other people’s work (it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the woman listed as the “author” of True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real writes for the Huffington Post). Don’t make it easy for them. Your words belong to you and you have a right to benefit from them before anyone else does.
Read the Terms of Service on places. Make sure your words stay your own.