May 17, 2009

The Vine of Thievery!

Disclaimer (to protect me!): The following information is speculative and includes interpretations made by me. I'm no lawyer, so be aware I may be wrong. The excerpts are from The Vine and were copied without permission insofar as I don't believe I needed to seek it. If I'm wrong, tell me and I'll take it down - I'd rather not be sued thanks.

The Vine is an odd thing.
It's a website that is owned by Fairfax Digital, right. The site is all about Web 2.0. For those many out there that have heard that phrase a million times but secretly have no idea what it is, Web 2.0 basically means the site owner sets up the framework for the site but instead of the owner and their writing team coming up with content, you the regular public fill it up with goodies. Facebook is an example. The Vine is too.

The Vine is supposed to be a news and info site that dishes up reviews, rants and news about entertainment - eating, drinking, movies, music, fashion, books... only any old Joe can sign up and blog away about their chosen field. That's not a bad way to stay up to date while keeping it grass roots, is it? No one seems to get paid, of course. You're donating your words and time. There may be staffers, but the site has no obvious links to them.

Here's where it gets a little sticky.

When you sign up, there are three different sets of terms and conditions you need to agree to. Two are for the site, the other is for Fairfax Digital, because you're signing up to their entire online network. That's a bit yucky right there, because Fairfax privacy terms can be construed as being impolite (to put it mildly) with information they collect from users and the organisation has been accused of using dubious tactics in the past. If Trent Reznor is on one side of the privacy and security viewpoint, Fairfax are on the exact opposite. What does that mean? It means you really have no idea who your email or credit card information will go to and as a result, your inbox is very likely to be filled with emails you'd rather not have and don't recall asking for. Oh, and people you don't know may have your credit card details if you've entered them.

If you read the terms and conditions, you'll see where it gets stickier still. The Vine and Fairfax own EVERYTHING you contribute to their site. By agreeing, you give up all moral and legal rights to your words and are not allowed to claim anything back. It specifies very clearly that The Vine are allowed to reprint your work in any other format, even as a published hard copy book to sell or give out in any location worldwide and that you aren't entitled to a single cent.

I'm going to come right out and say it: The Vine is bullshit.
If you don't care about the above, go nuts, but if you like owning your own words and hope to make a name for yourself, don't write for them. You'll be giving up any smarts you put down and the chance of getting your name out there are rubbish when you look at what you are giving up, which is essentially anything you give them.
There are many other paid or at least fair opportunities for writers out there. Hell, anything's better than the disrespectful and horrid terms laid out by Fairfax Digital.

Below are some chunks from the privacy policy (full version linked here) and conditions (linked here) that illustrate my point.

What they do with user information is laid out below.
What information we collect
In general, the personal information we collect includes (but is not limited to) name, contact details and possibly financial information, including credit card information.
We also collect information about you that is not personal information. For example, we may collect anonymous data relating to your activity on our website (including IP addresses),

How we disclose it
We may disclose personal information, and you consent to us disclosing your personal information, to other members of the Fairfax Group.
We may also disclose your personal information, and you consent to us disclosing your personal information, to third parties:
- including our shareholders, Fairfax Digital Limited and Lifelounge Pty Ltd;
- engaged by us to perform functions or provide products and services on our behalf, such as newsagents, processing credit card information, mailouts, debt collection, marketing, research and advertising;
- that sponsor or promote any competition that we conduct or promote via our services;
- as required or authorised by any law;
- as part of a sale of all or part of our business.
What happens when you put anything onto the site.
By uploading, transmitting, posting or otherwise making available any Material via the Site, you:
(a) grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, licence to use, reproduce, edit and exploit the Material in any form or on any medium and for any purpose;
(b) also grant each user of the Site a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, licence to use, reproduce, edit and exploit the Material for any purpose subject to the Conditions;
(e) unconditionally waive all moral rights (as defined by the Copyright Act 1968) which you may have in respect of the Material.
The conditions then go on to say:
Intellectual Property
Except where expressly provided otherwise in the Conditions, you do not have any right, title or interest in or to any proprietary rights relating to the Site.

The Site contains Material that is protected by copyright, trade mark and other laws. Except where expressly provided otherwise in the Conditions, you may only reproduce and display the Material on the Site for your own personal, non-commercial use only. Except for the temporary copy held in your computer's cache and a single permanent copy for your personal reference, the material may not otherwise be used, stored, reproduced, published, altered or transmitted in any form or by any means in whole or part (except where such use constitutes fair dealing under the Copyright Act) without our prior written approval or the written approval of our licensor.

In particular, you may not use any Material on the Site to establish, maintain or provide, or assist in establishing, maintaining or providing your own publications, Internet site or other means of distribution.
If Material is defined as "text, illustrations, photos, audio, video or other material" on the site, and your works, as soon as they are submitted, become property of The Vine, then doesn't that mean that as soon as you put your work up, you aren't allowed to use it for anything else, ever? Or at least that you have to ask permission from The Vine to use it? That, my friends, is very wrong or at least very unprofessional, especially in light of the fact that you are not paid and thus it isn't even a commission work.

If you know of other sites that use a similar model, please let me know in the comments section. Yuck!
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