Friday, November 28, 2008

This is Why You Shold Read the Terms of Use of Any Website or Forum

I got a Google Alert today on "urban homesteading" that had a link to a forum called "Homesteading Today". Some of you may be member of that forum. I just wonder how many people actually read the terms of use. Basically, there is a clause in the TOU for that forum that gives them exclusive rights to anything you post there, including pictures, and the content of all your private messages.

This is what it says:
Any communication which you post to the Site or transmit to homesteadingtoday.com or to the Site by e-mail, private message (PM), public post and/or other medium can be used by homesteadingtoday.com on a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive license with the right to reproduce, modify, publish, edit, translate, distribute, perform, and display the communication alone or as part of other works in any form, media, or technology whether now known or hereafter developed, and to sublicense such rights through multiple tiers of sublicenses. homesteadingtoday.com may use the information it obtains relating to you, including your IP address, name, mailing address, email address and use of the Site, for its internal business and security procedures.
Yeah, right. Like I'm agreeing to that! NOTICE in the last line that they can use your IP address, name, mailing address, etc....FOR INTERNAL BUSINESS. In other words, they can sell all that stuff to anybody, anytime.

Your information is not safe on this site. My advice is that if you are a member of this site, leave now. If you aren't, don't join.

I was a member of a site called Frugal Living until I noticed that she had sold a column to some newspapers. In that column, she had users' tips that they had posted on the forum. I wrote and asked her how I could keep her from using my stuff, and she pointed out to me that the same such clause was in her TOU. I immediately took down all my pictures and left the site.

To me, this is deceitful. Site owners know that most people do not read the TOU before they click the box and join. Once you've done it, the only way to stop it is to not post there anymore. Everything you have already posted is stored somewhere on their computers, and can be used by them for any purpose at all.

I just feel obliged to try to let people know when I run across such obvious green and deceit. Please read the TOU, and if you have any questions with what you read, contact me.

5 comments:

Patrice Farmer said...

Frugal living...I think I remember that site...isn't that the one that she ended up going to a pay for forum system??? Instead of it being free?

mary said...

That's amazing! I am going to read the entire TOU from now on, before joining and posting on any site. I always thought the TOU had to do with not posting anything offensive...

Florida Homesteader said...

Actualy, I think the site was Frugal Village, and the forum was Frugal Living. No, I don't think it went to pay, but I don't know, because I quit and didn't go back. They WERE paying, however, since she was using their tips to make money.

I can see selling ads or something, but to actually take ownership of something someone says, or a tip she/he gives, and to use that to make money is ludicrous.

tixrus said...

Deb, this is a pretty standard TOU. I don't think its as draconian as you're making it. They collect the info that you submit in a database, and they may choose to display or aggregate or summarize it in other ways. Their capital and their draw *IS* the stuff users have posted. Almost every forum makes money this way. Who would visit a forum with no posts!! Note they say nonexclusive (meaning you may use the same stuff as you choose elsewhere.) Also all sights collect your IP and your email at least, and use it for "internal business." Like if somebody was launching an attack on my web from some IP that was not a proxy and matched a member, I would block that IP and I would probably also cancel that members' account to protect my business. You do need to look for a privacy policy that specifically states that they won't sell your personal info, though.

Florida Homesteader said...

I'm not talking about being able to use it for promotion of the website. That's fine. This goes beyond that, in that it gives complete copyright and ownership to your words. Under copyright law, your words belong to you. I've only seen a few sites that had this sort of TOU.