Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Fine Print

OK, so we are going to meet and talk cartooning.

We pick a place to meet -- a restaurant, let's say

And we meet there and hang out, talking cartoony shop talk.

Just for fun, here are some of the concerns we may tackle:
How do you make money in the cartooning business?
What kinds of pen do you use?
How do you color your work?
Do you send stuff via email or old fashioned mail?
How do you make new contacts?
What if a client is slow in paying?
So we talk for a while and then, of course, we drive or walk back to our studios.

But we can't take our conversation with us. We have to leave it at the door.

The place where we met now owns it.

Now, that sounds absolutely goofy. Why would a place where people meet up want to own all conversations that happen there?

It happens every day, in cyber-land.

For instance, this just happened to me: A guy who runs one of those educational sites like eHow or Ask sent me an email asking if I'd like to join as the resident cartoonist.

He wrote:

We feature Q and A (from users, not a mere interview) with people who have interesting jobs, and we've gotten more than a few emails suggesting we try and track down an articulate and online-savvy cartoonist:) Our site is non-commercial (we don't even have ads)...we're just two intellectually curious guys who thought an open Q and A with people who have cool jobs was a great idea. It's not much of a time can expect 3 or 4 questions/day, which you don't have to answer right away -- just log in and answer when you have time. 
You seem like you'd be a great candidate, because you're obviously internet-savvy given your active blog, so check out [name of site] and let me know if you'd like to do a Q and A. We'd love to have you!

I thought maybe it would be a good idea to volunteer time to do this on their site. It's non-commercial, he said. He called my job a "cool job." I asked how he wanted to proceed.

He wrote:

Thanks for the reply. I'll paste the next steps below. And just as a primer for what to expect, it's not a typical 'interview", but rather an interactive "ask me anything" format...meaning users might submit questions any time of day (and you'll get an email notification when they do)'re under no obligation, of course, to answer them immediately (unless you want to!), but try to log in every once in a while to answer them. 
From the patterns we've seen so far, hosts typically get 5-7 questions a day for the first couple days while their Q&A is the 'latest and greatest'...which then tails off. 
So yes, while the time commitment isn't that significant, I'd recommend waiting until you're not preoccupied with the holidays or such. 
[How to set up your account links.]

Okay! All set to begin!

But after looking at the Terms and Conditions of the site, I was stunned.

Here's what you agree to when you enroll in the site (something you have to do to participate) said in part (uh ... you can just skim this):
By communicating with [name of site], you grant [name of site] a royalty-free, unrestricted (including but without limitation, for commercial gain and advertising purposes), worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right and license to use and exploit such content, in whole or in part, in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed.
OK. That's not good, is it? At least not good for me.

I wrote back:

Although I would be happy to participate, sorry to say that I can't agree to your Terms.
I read them just now before setting up my account. The section that says that [name of site] has all rights to all content that's posted is what I mean. Look, you could publish a "how to be a cartoonist book" that I wrote without me getting a dime. I'm not saying that you would, but it would be your right. My feeling is that I am not the right fit for you. 
Thanks for asking and best of luck, 
I'm glad I read the Terms and Conditions. I'm sorry that [name of site] is not so just-for-fun. Wanting all rights from all people is a lot more than just some curious guys that have a Web site, don'tcha think?

So, please consider looking at the fine print.


Clifford Magnus Larsen said...

Great story thanks for sharing. Now I have a great way to end my e-mails. I'm going to put that "fine print" in each and every e-mail! HA HA HA!

Mike said...

These boilerplate TOS's really need to differentiate between using the material for promotion and other commercial applications. Books will have a notice upfront allowing reasonable quotation in reviews, and some illustrations allow cropping for promotional announcements, and I think most creators understand and even want their work promoted. But these sweeping permissions are too much, and while it's unlikely you'd be harmed, it's not impossible. An unnecessary issue.

Glad you accidentally left the name in once, though. Pretty interesting site, though it is really like collecting all the FAQs on the net in one place.