18 March 2010

Off Topic: The Wonderful World of the Internet and Publishing Today

So I have an idea for a particular story/article for a beer magazine.

I go to the website for one particular beer-centric publication (name withheld for now--let's just say it has the word "beer" in the name).  They happen to have a "Submit a Story" page on their website.

Here's what the directions say:
  • To submit the story or an idea, send an e-mail to [e-mail address].
  • Then this:
"Terms of Acceptance: By posting or submitting any materials (including but not limited to any remarks, ideas, graphics, photos, comments, product concepts, advertising concepts or ideas, and suggestions for improving or changing existing content) to this Site, you automatically grant (or warrant that the owner of such rights has expressly granted) to [publishing house] a royalty-free, non-exclusive, perpetual and irrevocable worldwide right and license to use, reproduce, modify, publish and distribute such materials or incorporate such materials into any form or technology now known or later developed, and you waive any moral rights you may have in having the material altered or changed in a manner not agreeable to you. You further grant [publishing house] a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to use your name in connection with the Submitted Content, and to use the Submitted Content for editorial, advertising and promotional purposes."    
The translation of this legalese: If you send it to them, they own it.  Note that there's nothing about paying a writer or photographer.

  • Required in the e-mail: Your name, address, contact information, anything they may need to know about who you work for, etc.;  "1. Detailed description of story;  2. Story itself copied and pasted to the body of your email plus 72 dpi supporting images in the following file formats: jpg, tiff, gif, png, pdf, eps, ai, PSD. No files in excess of 8mb."
Now, to recap:  In order for them to consider your proposed story idea, you have to send them the entire thing, which they then own outright.  My wife--an artist with lots of experience in intellectual property rights--just looked this over, and said "What the [bleep]?!?"  

Now, there exists the possibility that this is just a VERY sloppily written submission page, which preemptively covers every possible contingency, including press releases and letters to the editor, but inadvertently lays claim to anything submitted to them.  Maybe what they meant was you should send them either the story outline OR the story itself.  But if this is how competently they assemble what is effectively a legal notice, how well will they assemble the content of their magazine?



NearChaos said...

It's "anus protectus"...while their policy certainly does give them permission to rip you off, on the other hand, they don't want anyone suing them for stories written by other people with the "they stole my idea, I sent that idea to them last week" claim. Never mind their story may have been in development prior to that. Even if they have proof, defending themselves cost money.

Plus really hardly anyone reads the terms.

I guess if they got a reputation for genuinely ripping people off that would get around the internet pretty quick as well.

Chris said...

No offense, I love your blog, but perhaps the reason for my comment is BECAUSE I love your blog and blogs similar to them: if you have a good idea, and a good story, and good photos to accompany all that, then publish it yourself on the web. There is no tangible barrier stopping you. I understand that it doesn't fit within the traditional model of article publishing, but that's the 21st century, no? I could be way off the mark, and welcome reasonable explanations of how that may be.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Chris, what you forget is that it takes time, effort, and expense for anyone to properly prepare a QUALITY story, and I, just like every other writer, cartoonist, etc., can only afford to do so if I have a reasonable expectation of financial reward for same. If I'm going to invest a couple hours in writing, interviewing, and photo-taking, AND probably buy a few (more) beers so I know what the heck I'm actually talking about as opposed to being just some blowhard who drank a beer and cribbed notes from the web, then I need financial compensation. That, or a few winning lottery tickets being given to me, or a wealthy patron of the writing arts giving me a monthly stipend, or.....

Any bozo can just snap pictures with a cell phone camera and upload them. Even the most "newbie" high school newspaper "reporter" can just do a Q&A session with someone. Any dweeb can post reviews all night long on beer websites, and to be honest s/he doesn't have to even actually buy the beers in question--he or she can just make up tasting notes.

But when you pay for a publication, you are presumably paying for it because you have decided to not only financially reward the producers of what you are about to read, but also entrust the editors and publisher of said publication to screen the content, attest to its factual veracity if applicable, and maybe even seek out the information or content contained therein, or make someone else do so, on your behalf. This applies whether you're referring to the Baltimore Sun, the New York Times, a comic book, Beanie Babie World, Rolling Stone, The Economist, Sports Illustrated, Scientific American, Playboy, or a beer magazine.

The Internet is a wonderful resource for the dissemination of information globally, and for breaking the barriers of knowledge and communications. But it has created an entitlement mentality that makes people feel they deserve all/better content for free. Until someone finds a way for all of us to make a living from sitting at keyboards spouting our opinions, the better writers have to be selective about where they share their information, and when and why. That's why the better information I gather goes to Mid-Atlantic Brewing News first.

Sam Sessa said...

"Any bozo can just snap pictures with a cell phone camera and upload them."

You rang?

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Well, at least YOU can type relevant commentary to go with the photos....... there are a few out there that apparently believe that all you have to do for a blog post is snap a picture with a phone and upload it, no matter how lousy the photo or cell phone "camera" is......