Feb 172009
 

So because of the Facebook debacle and after reading a blog post comparing* various Terms of Service (TOS), I checked out the TOSes of the social media websites I belong to. I left the Indigo Chapters community to last — in fact I didn’t even think about it, being Canadian and aimed at serving authors, until I happened to log on — and was shocked at what I read. Now, I know I have trouble reading, and had real trouble with comprehending technical passages when I signed up for Indigo Chapters Community over a year ago, but I’m sure I would have gone haring off in the other direction when I read this and understood what it meant:

“The User acknowledges that any content, e-mails, postings, offers, software, videos, photos, text, graphics, music, sounds, questions, creative suggestions, messages, feedback, ideas, recipes, notes, drawings, articles, stories or other information, data, materials and opinions (including, without limitation any postings on community forums) (“Submissions”) that he or she may provide, e-mail, post, upload or otherwise transmit to the Website shall be deemed and shall remain the property of Indigo, including all copyright, without reservation, and User waives in favour of Indigo any and all moral rights in such Submissions. “

What people were outraged about with Facebook was their attempt at copyright theft; but here Indigo says outright it’s taking copyright away from the users and with no compensation whatsoever. Unlike most social media sites, it doesn’t even acknowledge that users ought to have the right to retain copyright on their own work. In addition, it’s claiming that we’re waiving our moral rights too. Now, I’m not sure they can actually enforce the latter without a signature on our part, but it would take a lot of dough to take them to court to find out plus no one could do it unless they discovered a misuse of their works in which their name was still attached.

So what do I do? I’ll probably remain a member because, unlike with Facebook, I have to enter all my content manually. For comments in community forums, where I write small snippets, copyright theft will be no big deal…except that it pisses me off and with waiving moral rights, we’re all opening ourselves up to having our words used in a way that we wouldn’t agree with yet still having our name attached to them.

I’ll definitely stop posting longer writings and reviews. I was thinking of replacing reviews with links to them here on my website, until I read this totally incomprehensible clause:

“By including a link to the Website on a Third Party Site, User automatically grants, and represents and warrants that it has the right to grant, to Indigo an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use the Website in order to link to, use, copy, publish, stream, publicly perform, publicly display, reformat, translate, excerpt (in whole or in part), summarize, and distribute the content, links and other materials of any kind residing on any web pages on which User places the link.”

Maybe I shan’t post a link after all. This is waaaaayyyy too complicated to read and to understand. If someone can explain it to me and all my readers, that would be great!

I’m starting to understand why all these rights grabs: in the knowledge economy corporations compete by not hiring original creators, instead they acquire their money-making content for free through these TOSes without any responsibility, either in payment or in ethical use, to the creator.

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*The author Amanda L. French, Ph.D, summarized Facebook’s TOS in terms of those from other social media thusly (her blog may be down from too many hits, that’s why I’ve copied it here):

Conclusion? Go ahead and be outraged. Facebook’s claims to your content are extraordinarily grabby and arrogant. Here’s the rundown, which I go through in more detail below:

  1. Facebook apparently wants to keep all its rights to your stuff after you remove it from Facebook, and even after you delete your Facebook account; they just removed the lines that specified that their rights end when your content comes down. Nobody else (of those I looked at) would dream of that; mostly they specifically state that their rights to your content end when you remove the content from their site or delete your account.
  2. This one kills me: Facebook claims it can do whatever it wants with your content if you put a Share on Facebook link on your web page. Unbelievable–and unique, as far as I can tell. People can post links in Facebook to your content just by copying and pasting the URL, but if you want to save them a few keystrokes by putting a link or a widget on your site, Facebook claims that you’ve granted them a whole mess of rights. Count me out.
  3. Other sites point out in their terms of service that you still own your content: Facebook doesn’t mention that little fact. Facebook also neglects to remind you that you’re giving other Facebook users rights to your Facebook content, too — YouTube, for example, makes it clear that other people besides YouTube have a right to use and spread around the videos you upload. In general, other sites’ terms of service just have a more helpful tone.
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