[–06/25/06 – It’s almost a year later! – With this post, I inadvertently stepped into an extended flame war. It’s still going on, if you can believe it. I’m leaving the post up because I don’t like to delete my posts, and in any case I was simply recording the reality of my own experience. As you will see if you care to scroll to the last comment, the situation between Rose and myself was eventually resolved to our mutual agreement. I really don’t care about the hostilities (either defensive or aggressive), and would prefer to be left out of it. Comments on this post are closed. –]
Ever have an experience online with someone who can’t communicate in a reasonable fashion? I was just invited, both by guestbook and by email, to join this women’s writing community. When I looked at the legal terms, I decided not to join. What followed really surprised me.
Here is the invite I got by email:
Hello, I would like to take this time to invite you to join Today’s Woman Writing community. We are a supportive online community for men and women over 18. We have many features such as a poetry and story board , authors interviews , calls for submission , interactive forums, dictionary , regular columns , writing lessons , book store , book reviews and many more features. There is no cost to joining. I look very forward to welcoming you as a new member. Come be apart of a community where you can share your writing with other adults.
Well, I was a bit skeptical, not least because of the irregular commas, typos like “Sincrerely,” and the familiar errors of “no cost to joining” and “apart of.” I understand that when you’re trying to invite new members to an online community it’s easy to be hurried and a bit sloppy, so I checked it out anyway. The site is nicely designed, but the first article I saw claimed that poets should always use “understandable language.” Well, sometimes great poets do and sometimes they don’t. Accessible language, if used well, can be fine. Then again there are times when it is more useful or aesthetically pleasing to be a bit opaque. In any case, it wasn’t a great first impression. I went to register for the forum. Before I signed off on the terms of service, I read them.
Some people don’t read the terms of service. I usually do. I wrote the following reply:
Thank you for your invitation!
However, a published poet should never agree to your terms of service, which include:
“(a) you agree to grant to us a worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, non-exclusive right and license (including any moral rights or other necessary rights) to use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, distribute, perform, promote, archive, translate, and to create derivative works and compilations, in whole or in part. Such license will apply with respect to any form, media, technology known or later developed;”
Sorry, my work is mine.
Seemed kind of semi-polite to me. Here was the part I didn’t agree to, and so I didn’t feel comfortable joining. I might simply have ignored her invitation, but I felt that it would be polite to give some feedback on an important issue to writers of any kind. Rose turned out to be the founder, and this was her response:
Obviously you do not understand the terms of service and obviously you did not read further. Let me correct your ignorance.
My “ignorance”? She included FAQ (number 48, no less) in her reply, so it seems as though this issue has come up before.
What does section 7 of terms and service mean?
I think the general confusion is based around the belief that Todays-Woman would be taking over the rights of content submitted on the Todays-Woman site. You give us a royalty-free and non-exclusive right – which means we don’t pay a licensing fee for the content and our agreement is non-exclusive. This clause points out you are the owner of your work and hold all rights to your content. You grant marketing and advertising, provided Todays-Woman credits you and/or the original artist as actual owner of the content added. By marketing I mean permission to promote you in advertisement or print one of your articles, poetry , stories in our newsletter. We run ads and promotions to drive traffic to our member’s websites. Such as writer of the month , press releases interviews etc. If you or Todays-Woman.net terminate your account, Todays-Woman will remove any of the content you have submitted to Todays-Woman within 48 hours, you also have the option to remove your work should you terminate your account. Once you cancel your relationship with us, we can no longer post your content.
What rights do you ask for?
By submitting a poem or story to Todays-Woman.net , You retain all copyrights to your poem or story. You are only giving Todays-Woman.net non-exclusive rights to post your writing in the following section Todays-Woman website, archives and in digital print media, such as our newsletter. By submitting your poem or story you understand that we will act in our best judgment and remove any work if it does not fall within our existing guidelines. If you would like to remove your work anytime from Todays-Woman.net you have the option to delete your own work.
After cutting and pasting from the faq, she added the following in a different font:
Now I do believe you owe me an apology. We have no desire to take your work and several published poets have agree to our terms that are the same terms set out by anyone who operates a forum board as we do. I suggest you look closely at ezboard’s terms.
Well, I don’t use their board either. Arguments to authority have never been terribly persuasive to me. This is a support community for contemporary female poets? Sheesh. So (sorry if this is getting boring – skip to the next post if you like) I wrote back the following:
As a woman of today – and a feminist – I’m a bit taken aback by your response. Despite my deep “ignorance,” I am aware of some of the legal matters involved in your clause.
In fact, whether or not my content is “taken down,” this clause gives you the right to do whatever you want with any member’s poetry, in perpetuity, without paying permissions royalties or profits – despite anything else that may follow. It means that you don’t even need my permission to publish it in any book, periodical, or any other format media. A conventional publisher does not have this kind of clause. A forum is a different entity than a publisher, I realize that. However, it is my choice and my option to make all decisions about rights to my poetry. If the clause does not mean what it says, then it needs to be reworded by a legal professional who will incorporate the “explanation” into the actual wording of the legal agreement.
And no, I’m afraid you don’t get an apology – although normally I would try to work toward greater understanding. Such condescension as you have offered to me does not immediately invoke the need or desire to apologize. A person who understands language and courtesy does not offer to “correct ignorance,” and in any case my comments only quoted your own terms and asserted my right of decision on these matters.
I might well have been inclined to join had your terms and or/response been different. Perhaps you might confer with others on your staff to see how this might be avoided in future.
Best wishes anyway,
The note I back from that was almost rageful.
No it does not and I suggest that you go to yahoo.com, hotmail.com, ezboards.com, invision board, cafepress.com and read their disclaimer. We are not a publisher. We are a writing community, where you share your work and we also have a forum board that is why that disclaimer is in place. It covers our butt.
Our declaimer was worded by a lawyer and you are out of line. As for your joining my community, you are no longer welcomed.
As for an apology, I did not expect to receive one, as you can not see or understand your own ignorance.
As for my staff, feel free to email any of them and they will explain to you, the same thing that I have.
This conversation is over.
Well, all righty then. I’m no longer “welcomed.” Glad to have found out the nature of the thing before I handed over any of my poems. Should they decide to publish a collection, like my other community did, they wouldn’t need to get permissions or have signed contracts or anything at all. It does indeed “cover” them – much too well, in my opinion.
Perhaps it is intended as a hobby-group? Perhaps English is the founder’s second language? I still think that the basic motive of the site could well be a good one. Still, if that’s the way the founder responds, you could probably do better.
Care to share a similar experience with miscommunications on the net? I have a feeling such problems are not terribly uncommon.