Uncategorized · Writing Stuff

Don’t Be Vocal – Read the Fine Print

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m a mercenary. I want to be paid to do things, and I’ll do a number of things to get paid.

One of the things I do is write content for various online sites. A lot of them are kind of wonky in how you get paid – page views, sales through Amazon affiliate links, all that kind of good stuff.

I thought I might add to my current sites, so I wandered around the interwebs, and I came across “Vocal.”

Interesting place, I thought. There seem to be a lot of users and a lot of user generated content. It seems to be good content, too. Stuff that will draw in readers.

Maybe I should sign up!

But then…I did what you should do. I read the fine print.

Terms of Use:
“You retain ownership of the intellectual property rights in your User Content, subject to the license you grant to the Company below and elsewhere in these Terms of Service.

By transmitting User Content on or through the Services, you grant the Company a nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, fully paid, assignable, transferable, sublicensable license to use, reproduce, store, modify, edit (e.g., fixing typos, making editorial changes), truncate, aggregate, display, perform, distribute, prepare derivative works based on, and transmit such User Content, in any medium that now exists or may arise in the future, and otherwise exploit your User Content (including, but not limited to, use of your name in association with your User Content to identify you as the “Creator”) in connection with the Services and the Company’s (and our successors’ and assigns’) businesses, including after your termination of your account or the Services, and you waive any and all moral rights and publicity rights in such User Content. You represent that you have all of the necessary rights to grant this license to the Company for all of your User Content, and that such license is granted without infringement or violation of any third party rights, including without limitation, any privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, trademarks, contract rights, or any other intellectual property or proprietary rights. You agree that this license includes the right for other users of the Services to access and use your User Content, subject to our terms and conditions regarding such use and the right for the Company to allow its third party business partners (including social media services) to use your User Content and that this license has no restriction as to the medium, dissemination method, type of services the Company or its business partners may offer, or the type of systems or products that may be used in conjunction with your User Content.”

What does that mean?

You might “own” your content, but they can do whatever they feel like with it forever and ever, amen.

Well, at least they pay me, right?

How to Earn Money:

“You may be paid for user engagement with certain User Content that you submit to the Site. The Company determines amounts payable to users derived from User Content based on proprietary algorithms developed by the Company and subject to change in the Company’s sole discretion, without notice to the User. Generally, the algorithms measure and assign weight to such user engagement metrics as popularity of the content with visitors as measured by number of unique visitors; visitors’ interaction with the content; amount of time spent by visitors on the page; and shares on social media. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Company reserves the right to modify its algorithm at any time, which may result in decreased revenue to users for similar content, and to suspend monetization program altogether.”

So, let’s review, shall we?

You own your work, but they can use it as much as they want, however they want, in perpetuity, and you have no say over any of it.

That sounds fair.

And you get paid, but they figure out how much they pay you, unless they decide to stop paying you, and they can’t actually tell you exactly how they figure out how much they pay you.

Another totally fair aspect of writing for them.

Now, maybe I’m being harsh, and maybe you think that you’re digging this place and going to write for them.

Clearly, this one is not right for me: I don’t want people to use my stuff ad infinitum without having to pay me or get my approval to change and use, and I really don’t want them to stop paying me just because they don’t want to pay me.

But if you like them? Cool.

I will never tell someone that they should only write for money or that they should only write for free. As a writer, it is up to you to decide what you want for what you do. You have your reasons, and I’ll stay in my lane and let you make your own decisions.

But. Please. Read. The. Fine. Print.


My open application letter to ElephantJournal’s “Apprentice Certificate Training Program”

Money Money Money
Money Money Money
(Image from jdurham via morgueFile http://mrg.bz/fhzsZy)

As a writer, I’m used to seeing any number of publications who offer “exposure only” for work.  While that may not seem like a good deal to most – it doesn’t pay for groceries or the mortgage, unless it’s the kind of exposure that comes along with tips in dollar bills – sometimes it’s worth it for an author, especially if they’re trying to get their name out there or if it’s for a good cause.

I, however, generally prefer to get paid for my work, like most normal people I know.  If you (rule number 6) prefer to not get paid, and, instead, you very (rule number 6 times 2!) much enjoy paying someone else for the privilege of working, then I think I’ve found your place in the world.

Let me start at the beginning.

First, what an apprentice is.  As per the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an apprentice is “a person who learns a job or skill by working for a fixed period of time for someone who is very good at that job or skill.”  Makes sense.  Always good to learn by doing, right?  As a teacher, I know that practice makes perfect when it comes to a lot of things, and that includes writing.  So a writing apprentice program makes a whole lot of sense.

Second, the apprentice program I found listed on ElephantJournal’s page.  You see, they are willing to let you apply to be an apprentice in their program.  In return for a potentially non-refundable (it’s at their discretion, rule number 10) $100, you are allowed to find them pictures, post articles, use social media, write weekly blog posts, work for 10 to 15 hours a week, and attend non-optional training twice a week (rules numbers 1 through 7).  They fully admit that they probably won’t hire you on at the end (number 8) and they will “fire” you (rule number 6) because you’re not productive enough (rule number 9).

Yes, you read all that right.  You pay them, and then they decide if they like you.

So I have a counter-offer for them.  I want one of their yogis to come offer me free yoga lessons twice a week.  But before they can start teaching me yoga, they have to pony up $100 to me.  If I decide that I don’t like the lessons, I can fire them and keep their cash.  If they get sick and miss, I keep their cash.  And, at the end, if I decide they’ve done a great job, I’ll return their money, but I won’t hire them or ever pay them for all their hard work.

Sounds like a fair deal to me!

Writers, remember the rule: money flows *to* the author.  Paying for the privilege of working for someone else doesn’t sound like a good deal to me.  (And I’m saying this as someone who had done a writing apprentice program before…and I got paid for doing so!)