Monday, December 11, 2006

Victoria Strauss -- Associated Content: Something to Beware

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.

In order to post free content at the site, you must agree to Associated Content's Terms of Use. No doubt many people will simply click "I agree" rather than slog through the whole of this dense, small-print document--but that's never a good idea. If you read down far enough, you find the following clause (bolding is mine):

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.

This is pretty much the same sweeping grant as the Terms of Use agreement; as with that agreement, you're required to renounce any financial compensation for Associated Content's use of your intellectual property. But there are two new wrinkles. The license you're granting may be exclusive--meaning that you could not exercise any of those rights yourself. And you must waive your moral rights.

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.

24 comments:

Katya L. said...

One thing that should be noted is that pretty much any online service, whether it be Yahoo or Associated Content or even Blogger, is going to require that you grant them certain rights or they won't legally be able to fulfill their function. From the Google TOS one agrees to when signing up for a Blogger account:

"By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying and distributing Google services."

I only mention this because about every six months someone gets up in arms about these clauses without realizing that if they don't grant basic rights, the service provider can't transmit their content over the internet (e.g., show the blog page) without being in violation of copyright laws.

That said, what these "content sites" are asking for is far more than the basic licenses required to serve the pages to the public, and I agree that authors considering posting to these sites should think long and hard about what rights they're giving up.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, these new content sites keep coming. Just today a friend posted a link on his blog to blurb.com, which has the same verbiage on their site:

http://www.blurb.com/corporate/tandcs

Pretty scary.

Southern Writer said...

It would be great if you would look into Constant Content, as well. I took down the rant about them on my blog because I don't want to be thought of as a troublemaker, but grrrr!

(Thanks for all y'all do!)

Victoria Strauss said...

Constant Content is a bit different--rather than being a way to display your work and earn on page views or ad clicks, or to sell your work directly to the service, it seems to be a kind of middleman service that lets writers sell their articles to people for use online. Initially I suspected a term paper mill, but it seems rather more like a display site for freelancers.

The Terms and Conditions don't seem onerous--Constant Content (I keep wanting to write Constant Comment--I used to drink that tea all the time in college) doesn't seem to take any rights. It keeps a percentage of each sale, with a percentage going to affiliates and the bulk going to the author. Authors get to set their own prices, and choose the kind of license under which their work is sold (including a Full Rights option that gives the buyer total ownership).

I don't know how much writers can or might earn through a site like this--I suspect in most cases, not very much. Unless I'm really missing something, the main risk of this service is to the purchaser, who isn't able to view the full text of the articles without buying them.

Anonymous said...

Dear Victoria,
I wish I had read your blog before getting fooled by essaywriters.net and shoved rudely by constant-content.com.
I was a technical writer working on software documentation for a renowned American company for 3 years. Suddenly, all came crashing down and I had to quit. Without a job, I started to work day and night for the essaywriters.net. After I have worked for 48 days and nights, and my total stands at more than $1200 USD, they are making all the excuses on planet. They are not paying me. I won them plenty of customers and worked hard on topics that no other writer could touch; like neurocysterscerosis and international marketing report for a foriegn company that invested in UK, listing all the challenges etc.
Then constant-content.com kept rejecting my articles for no valid reason. They became so rude and nasty, I think they have my articles and will use them.
I am based in India and now I am pouring tears on forums and websites that are screaming essaywriters' fraud on my face!

I wish I knew about you Victoria. Who can help me now?

Sanjeev
sjshar1510@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Dear Victoria,

I would like to eat the words that I minced about essaywriters.net.
They are "not" fraudulent. They had genuine issues for the delay in payment of salaries which I came to know from my bank:(
My bank in India did not provide a correct swift code.
Could you please delete or nullify my previous comment?
Me and many other writers got dragged into misconceptions about the essaywriters because of the delay in salaries. The company did display genuine business research assignments and focussed on corporate managers to researchers who have too much on their plates to handle or overload of work to multitask.
Essaywriters did prove their ethics and honesty. They even gave me phonecalls to confirm the swift code and transfer my salary.
I earned my bread from them and respect them for their fair deal with me and their customers.

Kind Regards,
Sanjeev Sharma
sjshar1510@gmail.com

Constant Content said...

For the record... Sanjeev Sharma articles were rejected for grammatical errors and problems with word choice. Not to mention our editors were harassed and insulted by this person. I have about 5 emails that are just him swearing and calling us names, obviously we made the right decision by choosing not to work with this writer.

Victoria Strauss said...

If anyone is wondering why I haven't honored Sanjeev Sharma's request to delete his first comment about Essaywriters.net, it's because Essaywriters.net is in the ultra-sleazy business of selling essays to students who are too lazy to write their own--and also because Mr. Sharma is not the only person who has experienced payment problems (it's to be hoped that anyone working for this term paper mill will have conscience problems as well, but I'm not optimistic on that score). For more complaints about Essaywriter.net, as well as an interesting discussion on exactly why term paper mills are an evil plague, take a look at this thread on Absolute Write.

genialgenius said...

Do these comments mean writing for essaywriters can be risky? How about academia-research? What is the most reliable site for writers wanting to earn extra from the internet?

Robin said...

I fell into the Associated Content mess. They now own two of my articles. Live and learn, live and learn!

Anonymous said...

After reading the rules on Associated Content, I have learned that I can post articles I have already put on my website, and earn a few extra dollars.

That is, if I post it as 'non-exclusive'. I know a few other writers who will submit articles there that had already been published in print, and will resell to AC as one of the many ways to get a little bit extra from resells.

It *can* be an okay way to make a few bucks, if you need/want to. But I agree, do read the information and make sure you know what you are signing up for.

Mike said...

Why don't we duped writers set-up a website (or blog) where we can post all the papers we made for Essaywriters.net? Definitely, their customers will get them for it. I even submitted the plagiarism reports they made to Mydropbox.com and Turnitin.com and reported them that they are illegally using their services. In this case, they will frequently lose their account there. We can bring Essaywriters.net down if we all unite.

Anonymous said...

Constant content is the biggest scam ever. They have even more technical roadblocks set up than associated content. I think nobody works at these work sites, they just tell the IT people to hook up the bugs and they all go to the beach.
AC is the only company I know of that throws its site into free fall every time it gets new financing. Shouldn't a website get better after getting money, not logjammed and stalled?

After discouraging seasoned writers na dburning top level users, they host a "town hall" where they act like they don;t know all the problems they've failed to address in prvious years. What idiot bank keeps giving them money? Glad I don't have money there.

DementedM said...

I'm in the process of researching AC and the potential to make money there.

I've spent hours reading threads on AC's forums and on other forums where AC writers hang out. Plus reviewing AC articles.

You raise really valid points that should be carefully considered by anyone contributing to a content site. However, I did want to add that there _are_ people making money on AC. From what I can tell (and I've only been researching, not doing) you really have to have a knack for web writing. Plus, if you can tie an article into a google ad topic, you can really optmize page views.

I have noticed the quality of writing is variable, but I'm not sure places like AC are really looking for quality. I think they're trying to develop content that drives page clicks and ad clicks. Their concept of writing is quite different from that of a traditional freelance writer.

I have seen forum conversations where AC content ranks high on search engine results, so it's not impossible. Most of the conversations I've read, the writers average 500 views per topic. Some register thousands or ten thousand+. And some content contributors have ended up on the Montel Show, in documentaries, and gotten freelance gigs based on AC work. So I'm not sure your criticism there is 100% valid.

I think making money on AC is much more than the writing. You've really got to understand the web and search engines to be successful. If you can do that and write well, you have a good shot at profitably leveraging the opportunity that AC offers.

If I end up moving forward with AC, I'll try to report back on my experience.

M

Anonymous said...

Essaywriters.net is definitely a scam. They are good in your first few weeks to a month and will eventually charge you of plagiarism inspite of proper citations & footnotes. Don't be fooled.

blue said...

I find it interesting that people consider Constant Content a scam because they are rejecting articles . . . isn´t a scam when they take them and don´t pay for them? I´ve been working with that site for a year now and have to say that their grammar rules are really, really strict.

I´ve had several articles rejected, some for bizarre grammatical rules that I´ve never heard of . . .but once I upped the level of my writing, I found that I could get my articles accepted easily. Unlike AC, which will take any grammatical mess as long as it will get picked up by Google.

To finish off, I´d like to comment that I only submit about 15-30 articles a month to CC and even on months that I don´t submit anything, I usually sell over $150 of articles. It´s not a lot, but I also put very little time into it, and yes, I have been paid. Regularly. Every month. :D

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that essaywriters.net is a scam. They make you work for hours for ridiculous rates, and they always find something not to pay you. In addition, I would not feel well working for a company that sells essays to lazy or incompetent students. Finally, how dare they to talk about plagiarism, when a student uses your writing to complete an assignment under his/her name??

Virginia

Lenin Nair said...

Dear Sharma, I am a writer with Constant content myself, and they do not scam anyone. They have paid me well over 700 dollars already. It's a great place to work On the contrary, ASSociated content is a big big big big big SCAM you can come across . If not scam it's an unethical business practice. Please read this post by me. You will know all:
http://cutewriting.blogspot.com/2008/05/unethical-business-practices-by.html

Anonymous, please reveal your name. If you believe that there is anything fishy about Constant content, I will show you my example. There are hundreds of other authors successful there, but the thing is you should not be a writer full of mistakes gramatically, you should be perfect gramatically, stylistically and in puctuation. That's it, and hence it is a genuine service, In AC, you can post anything. Please post your comments on this opinion into my blog and not here (I may not know)

Lenin

Lenin Nair said...

Katya, you made a very valid point about AC, they are recommending full rights transfer for alms. And they dont guarantee any performance payments unless you work hard and do promotion, on the other hand CC sells your articles and earns you far more than u can ever with AC. what sort of firm 'recommends' what is best for them and worst for writers as best for the writers. please read the ac scam article in my blog and reply in there.

shewolf52002 said...

I am unsure of the time frame of the complaints with associated content but I have had no problem with them so far. The bulk of my articles are calls for content and not subjects that I care whether I have credit for or not. Lighting in small spaces will never win me a pulitzer. I have been paid for every article I have submitted and other than a link on one of my social sites I do not promote them at all. It is true that the money is not that great but neither is the effort I have to put into the articles. Does anyone have suggestions for a site better than associated to write for?

Suddreth Ventures said...

Thank you for your comments. I have just submitted my first post with Associated Content. They offered me $4.06 for my article. I was happy to take it. Unfortunately, I was one of those that did not read the fine print. I assumed that I would continue to collect money from the article being viewed on different websites. I am very disappointed that AC is not a legitimate site. I just wrote my first blog: www.makemoneyonlinelink.blogspot.com in which I hoped to promote writing articles for extra income.

I wanted to be able to help others looking to earn extra money online. There are so many scams out there. I will definitely watch your site for more helpful information.

GaBunnie said...

CC is a scam! I have been writing for AC for about a month now and have had absolutely NO problem being paid. BTW, even if you are prepaid for your article, you still get the page view pay for the article. It is just a "pre-paid" guess as to how many page views you will have on that article. anything over that amount is still paid to you. I have been trying to get my first article with CC approved-this seems to be a big joke, since I looked at one of the 'approved' articles on the site with the same subject I have written on and it has typos, and offensive remarks and even incomplete and run on sentences. I do not believe this crap..if anyone would be interested in seeing the two articles mine vs the approved one please contact me and we will have a laugh. The 'approved' one looks as if it were written by my fifth grader! I have a college degree-btw (not that this matters much when it comes to writing, but I also have a 3.65gpa and couldn't have gotten there without knowing how to write a paper) This I find interesting and in addition, their 'editor's' explanation as to why my article was not approved is incorrectly written! for example: Statement reads as follows: "We cannot accept this article until it is free of clarity, organizational, or sentence structure issues, punctuation errors, awkward wording, and redundancy. In addition, articles must be formatted according to our guidelines" FREE OF CLARITY?? NO wonder that other article was accepted!!! please contact me for more proof of the joke that CC is.

TequilaSunrise said...

Hello..! Is anybody out there!? Hi Victoria! Thanks for your time. The legalese on the web and anywhere else are the same. These legal guys are older than hell. Remember, they created confusion before the establishment of heaven and hell. It is hard to live with them, but life would be harder for us without them. Sanjeev, no cursing please. Hey Mike! I like your idea of adding more confusion to all of these. I am working towards a degree at the Web University. The gospel of Ms. Victoria and your class had been very enlghtening. This will hasten my Web U graduation. I cannot afford to have "more bruises than Frankenstein" like Mr. McCain, the US candidate. Thank you! I am beginning to see the light.

JJP said...

Associated Content is now known as Yahoo Voices. My guess is to bait and switch writers so they would think they are writing for a different site. Thank you for highlighting the problems and the reasons AC/YV should be avoided. Whil the nam has changed the policies have not.