Hierarchies Re-establish Themselves

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.

And you?

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.

15 thoughts on “Hierarchies Re-establish Themselves

  1. every word you wrote applies to visual art including graphic design…

    too many artists/designers are giving away the farm

  2. Pingback: Your Words Belong To You | NewsTechZilla

  3. Wow. That’s just wrong.

    What’s scary is the specificity of that last sentence. And they can do that because they know people aren’t going to read the fine print. Disgusting.

  4. Pingback: Keeping Copyrights Close : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  5. Yeah, language like that has stopped me from posting things in some places, simply because I’d really like to be in on it if someone uses my intellectual property.

    (Granted, the one I’m most annoyed about is at Scott Adams’ website, since I did an adaptation of the Desiderata (called, natch, “Dilberterata”) based loosely on the characters/world he created, and I’d love to have submitted it to him, but… I’d also like to be credited with it should it appear somewhere, even if he gets to keep all the money. And while I have no doubt that he’s a great guy who’d try to do the right thing, I also have no doubt that ‘the right thing’ may be nigh impossible to sort out amongst a high volume of submissions, inclusions, and whatnot.)

    That said, I’m generally pretty free with my IP, particularly visually. I make a habit of drawing people and their characters from my games (and occasionally other bits of my life), and whenever I do that I make it clear that it’s a gift, to be used by them however they like. While I’d be sad if they represented it as their own original work, it’s my gift to them and they can do whatever they want with it. I’m much more concerned with the part where things I didn’t give away are lifted without my knowledge and used to make money where I’m not even a part of the equation. Blech.

  6. Most of these big sites have that in their TOS, and it’s why I don’t post at iVillage or in the comments of forums for Networks. It’s also why (forgive me, Ivy) I wasn’t more active at ParentsConnect. And no Notes on FaceBook. And no Twitter. (I’ve started to see celebrity Tweets showing up unpaid in various print publications.)

    Any of those places owns your conversation. And the joke is that they all have TOS. But every single one of them buries the key nuggets about ownership of IP in a bunch of muddy obscurity.

    It links back to the conversation we had the other day about accusing a pregnant addict of murder when her newborn died.

    The Oligarchy grants itself license to steal by an avalanche of legalese and most folks’ desire to participate in life means they click “I have read….” without looking.

  7. Yeah, see that’s what I see as the main difference between them and something like America’s Funniest Videos. America’s Funniest Videos requires the person participating to actively acknowledge that they are participating–by sending in the video.

    Hiding your TOS so that you can own the content without being clear about it is really the opposite of that. With AFV, everyone knows what the deal is. With a lot of these places, few people do.

    And, really, it doesn’t matter if most of the content is crap. It matters that they have all that content and can sift through it to find the nuggets–which they did not create–and claim ownership of them.

  8. And AFV also pays for content. Granted it’s a very sketchy remuneration system. If I remember right, videos that air get like $150 and then you can “win” something for up to $10K.

    They may not pay any longer for videos that air–I’m not in the mood to google it right this second–but at least people know the drill. And, like playing the lottery, there is a CHANCE they’ll get something. Albeit a very small chance. But a chance nonetheless.

    These “we own your words” sites are offering nothing other than the chance to say something outloud. I’ve already come across three bloggers who are trying to get a contact high off of what they posted being shown in the book. So now not only did they contribute content without remuneration THEY ARE ALSO ADVERTISING THE BOOK FOR FREE.

    God, these folks have got an excellent racket going.

  9. Oh, I also need to correct myself. Twitter doesn’t claim ownership over your words.

    They do, however, reserve the right to change their minds about that at any point in time.

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