Thursday, October 03, 2013

Free Content Lampreys Are Just One Click Away

By Luke T. Bush  (C) 2013

In the old days you had to get out the magnifying glass to read the fine print before signing the contract.  In most cases you needed to lawyer to translate the legalese into common English.

Nowadays a click on your computer can be equivalent to signing it all away.

I was asked by someone to take some photos to be included in an article for a local magazine.  These images had to be top quality, hi res.  No problem with that – until I found out about the international corporation behind the local publication.

The Corporation didn't pay anything.  I was doing the work as a favor and I'm don't mind not being compensated as long as I retain the rights to my work.  I only grant "one time rights," i.e., you use it once and that's it.

The publication editor told me that I would maintain copyright to my work.  True, but...

I went to the Corporation Website and checked out the terms of submission.  I'm not an intellectual property lawyer or expert but I've done some research.  I didn't like what I read:

"You (the "Author") hereby irrevocably grant to the Corporation, its affiliates, and the Corporation Magazine (collectively the “Publisher”) the unrestricted, perpetual, worldwide right to use the Content freely in whole or in part in any manner or medium now known or hereinafter devised for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without compensation."

What does this mean in common English?  I would be sharing all of my rights with the Corporation who could use them for other projects after the magazine was published.  I would get credit but no money for additional use of my work.  And if a new medium – let's say cyber-telepathic networking – came into existence, the Corporation would have the license to exploit my images with it also.

It would be giving them almost everything for nothing in return.  As one friend observed: "It's like someone says he wants just a sip from your milkshake.  You hand him the milkshake, he sucks it dry and gives back the empty container."

So I didn't irrevocably grant to the Corporation the right to unrestrictedly and perpetually screw me over.

If I did have something of great value – a big if, granted – the Corporation could go ahead and profit without giving me one penny.  Sure, they would credit my work but I don't need "exposure."  I've got the Web for exposure, thank you.

Apparently what is really going on is the Corporation isn't looking for an image to hit the jackpot (if it did, it wouldn't mind) but instead is gathering a lot of images that can be used in its own stock photo collection.  What might appear in its local magazine could end up anywhere else in the world in any other context such as a million dollar advertising campaign.

Sorry but parasites have exploited me before.  I refused to sign away my work to a greedy bunch of free content lampreys.

I found a recent hardcopy of the Corporation publication and it includes a statement about how you could be "a community contributor."   The magazine says it wants to be a place where community members can connect with one another.  If you want to join in on the community conversation, continues the statement, just email articles and photos to the address below.

The term "community contributor" makes it sound like you're giving or sharing something with your community but in fact you're helping a corporation make more money at no cost to them.  The mag includes plenty of paid advertising.  And not one penny for contributors?

In the past I've written how this content grab can occur with Websites run by other for–profit entities such as a newspaper or TV station.

If you happen to be the only person to document an incredible event – like a photo or video of a UFO sideswiping city hall – don't go online and click it away.  See a lawyer, especially an IP attorney.

Don't be a sucker with suckers.

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