I've blogged before about the renewed popularity of content sites, where you can post your work (articles, videos, podcasts, photos) and earn some kind of income, often through ad clicks. While you shouldn't bet your next rent check on making significant money from such sites, there's no harm in using them--as long as you read and understand the fine print.
Associated Content ("The People's Media Company") is one such site. It offers users a choice between posting their content remuneration-free, or submitting for payment consideration (an Associated Content editor will review the submission and make an offer if appropriate). Unusually, if you choose the payment option, you don't earn from ad clicks--Associated Content pays you a fee. It's not a lot, and the amount is pegged to how much you post/how much you promote your content; nevertheless, it's actual cash money. And a lot of people seem to be signing on.
A. User Content.
By submitting any User Content through or to the AC Network, including on any User Tools or User Pages, but excluding any User Content you submit on AC Blogs, you hereby irrevocably grant to AC, its affiliates and distributors, a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive, and fully sub-licensable license, to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, create derivative works from, transfer, transmit and distribute on the AC Network, in connection with promotion or elsewhere, such User Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate the User Content into other works in any format or medium now known or later developed. Notwithstanding the foregoing, when you submit a text, video, images , AC may modify the format, content and display of such User Content. The foregoing grants shall include the right to exploit any proprietary rights in such User Content, including but not limited to rights under copyright, trademark, service mark or patent laws under any relevant jurisdiction. With respect to User Content you Post for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of AC Blogs, You grant AC the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such User Content on the AC Network or on any media. You agree that the foregoing grant of rights by you to AC and its affiliates is provided without any the entitlement of payment of fees or consideration.
Just by posting on the site, you're granting Associated Content the right to exploit your work in any way imaginable--and possibly to make money from that exploitation--without any compensation or consideration to you. Of course, the chances that Associated Content will actually exercise this right for any given piece of content are probably fairly slim. Also, since it's a non-exclusive grant, you aren't prevented from selling, re-posting, or adapting your work yourself. You may, therefore, consider it worth the risk.
(This kind of language, by the way, is not unusual on the Internet. For instance, you'll find something similar--though not as encompassing--in Yahoo's Terms of Service (see Clause 9), and also in the User Agreement of Triond.com (see Clause 5), another content site. As katya l. points out in the Comments section of this post, just about any online service will require you to grant certain basic rights, otherwise they won't be able to transmit content over the Internet without violating copyright laws. However, what Associated Content is asking its content providers to agree to goes some way beyond that basic license.)
For would-be paid content providers on Associated Content, the considerations are rather different. If you accept a payment offer from the site, you must abide by the Independent Contractor Licensing agreement--another dense, small-print document that contains the following license grant (again, my bolding):
(d) License Grant. Upon any Rights Grant, Content Producer hereby irrevocably (i) grants to Company a worldwide, perpetual, fully-paid up, royalty-free, transferable right and license, with right to sublicense, to reproduce, publicly display, distribute, and perform, transmit, edit, modify, create derivatives works of, publish, sell, exploit, use, and dispose of such Work for any purpose and in all forms and all media whether now known or to become known in the future, the right to retain all revenue and income derived therefrom, and any and all other related rights of whatever kind or nature; and (ii) waives and agrees never to assert any and all Moral Rights Content Producer may have in or with respect to any such Work in connection with Company's use thereof, even after termination of this Agreement (hereinafter, the grants described in subsections (i) and (ii) above are referred to as the "License"). The License shall be either (A) exclusive, or (B) non-exclusive, as designated and identified in the Application submitted by Content Producer in connection with such Work.
American writers may not be familiar with moral rights, which the US (unlike many countries that are signatories to the Berne Convention) doesn't acknowledge as part of copyright law. Associated Content's definition of the term (also from the Independent Contractor Licensing agreement) is as good as any:
"Moral Rights" means any rights to claim authorship of any Work, to object to or prevent any modification of any Work, to withdraw from circulation or control the publication or distribution of any Work, and any similar right, existing under judicial or statutory law of any country in the world, or under any treaty, regardless of whether or not such right is called or generally referred to as a "moral right."
In other words, you aren't just giving up the right to earn money from someone else's exploitation of your work, or to object to someone else's use of your work, you're giving up your right to be identified as the author.
Worth it? For payments that, according to the Associated Content FAQ, "range from $3-$20"? Some writers may think so. But for every ten writers who agree to Associated Content's Independent Contractor Licensing agreement, I'll bet there's at least one or two who didn't carefully read through the agreement, and are not fully aware of what they have given up.
Caveat emptor. Always read the fine print.