Sunday, May 21, 2006

Warning: Corporate Copyright Grab

I was curious how the Press Republican with its website – – was handling the issue of copyright when a reader or other non-employee submitted material. I had read too many stories about a creator who was screwed out of profits and credit because he gave away all rights to his work.

It took a while, but after some digging I finally accessed the relevant information at the Terms Of Use page. And what I read was disturbing.

If you agree to use a public use area –- for example, submitting a letter to the editor or a review –- you are giving away ALL RIGHTS to your work or “information.” The corporation behind the PR will own the work and can do anything it wants with it. And if the work somehow becomes a moneymaker, the corporation owes you NOTHING. In the Terms Of Use it is stated that you are granting the corporation the “perpetual, royalty-free and irrevocable right and license” of your “information.”

And does “information” include photographs that you submit? The publisher states it has the right to “edit or abridge any message, letter or posting.” So if I “post” a digital image on the PR site, that “information” now belongs to them?

The site should be upfront about the issue of copyright and spell out in plain English, not legalese, what the policy is in regards to an outside contributor and copyright. The policy shouldn’t be buried in the dim recesses of the site, hard to find.

Until this matter is cleared up, I wouldn’t recommend submitting any “information” to the Press Republican.

There is also a section in the Terms Of Use, Copyrights And Copyright Agents, which addresses the issue of someone stealing your work and then claiming it to be his own, submits the work to the site. It’s interesting how the corporation shows concern about “copyright infringement” while its own policy of taking rights from contributors isn’t that clear cut.

To the corporation’s credit, the site lists a contact person for any claims of infringement. But note this disclaimer:

“We cannot guarantee that any action will be taken as a result of your correspondence.”

What does that mean? That the corporation is entitled to do nothing if it so chooses, not even looking into an infringement claim? Then why have the contact person? What does this contact person do all day – watch “Judge Judy” and other court shows on TV to pass the time?

Or is he busy making a Hollywood movie deal with a “derivative work” based upon “information” you freely gave away?

No comments: