Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Xinger from Xing: I’ll Keep My Copyrights, Thanks Just the Same

I got an invitation to join a social network called Xing. It’s a business-oriented group based in Germany.

It looked promising, so I started the sign up process. Got all the way down to agreeing to the terms of service. I do give these a quick scan, because sometimes there are unfriendly clauses. This was one of those times.

First, a thank-you to Xing for making the type nice and big and legible. I have no patience with TOS agreements in 8-point type and have bailed on some, or if I was really in a position to need the service, taken the extra step to copy into Word and blow it up big enough to read.

The first thing I saw that made me say “huh” was one of the grounds for termination:

If the User is a member of a religious sect or a denomination that is controversial in Germany.

I’m assuming this is to keep hate groups out, but it’s very strangely worded. What isn’t controversial, after all? But I’m not a member of any terrorist orgs so OK, I’ll let it go.

But then, I found this:

When the User posts his or her contribution to a forum, the User grants XING an unlimited, irrevocable and assignable right of use for the respective contribution, which XING is entitled to utilize for any purpose. In particular, XING is entitled to keep said contribution on the forum, and on its Web sites and the Web sites of its partners, or use it for marketing the forum in any other way.

Consequently, XING has a right of use over all contributions to discussion forums it operates. Duplication or the use of these contributions or their contents in other electronic or printed publications is prohibited without the express written consent of XING. Copying, downloading, dissemination, distribution and storing of the contents of XING and/or third parties, with the exception of the cache memory when searching for forum pages, is prohibited without its express consent.

Um, excuse me, but no. I make my living as a writer. I want the ability to repurpose my own posts without crawling to Xing for permission. I certainly recognize Xing’s need to display and desire to have the option of parading my stuff around–but not if they don’t let me do the same. So this is what I submitted on the contact form:

Question About Terms of Service

I have a question about Clause 12, and I can’t really complete the signup until this is answered. As currently written, this transfers all rights to you from the poster. Wouldn’t it make more sense to take the nonexclusive rights you claim i the second paragraph, and then in the second paragraph after the words, “Duplication or the use of these contributions or their contents in other electronic or printed publications” INSERT “by anyone other than the original author of the forum post”

As a professional writer, I am quite concerned about my intellectual property rights. If I were to join under the current language, I would not contribute any forum posts (and I’m someone who posts extensively to Internet discussions)–because I wouldn’t want to ask permission to use my own words in a blog post, article, or book at some point.

I’ll let you know their response.


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