My response to Twitter’s new Terms of Service agreement is more than 140 characters long, so, here ’tis, in blog-form:
I don’t like it. It’s a rights grab.
I’m not sure what their old TOS looked like, and for all I know, this was in there previously. However, let’s talk a bit about what’s there now and why it’s not cool.
Here’s the part I don’t like, under the “Your Rights” section:
You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
They have a reassuring little “tip” below that, stating:
This license is you authorizing us to make your Tweets available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same. But what’s yours is yours – you own your content.
Yes, but that doesn’t address the whole thing. You own the content, but look again:
By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
Bolded part mine. Let’s take ’em piece by piece:
- By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services
What that says is, “if you post 140 characters in that box and hit ‘update,’ you are agreeing to our Terms of Service.” You don’t have to sign any contracts, you don’t have to click an opt-in or opt-out button. Well, actually, you sort of do. The “update” button is your opt-in button. It’s like buying a piece of software, opening the shrink wrap, and seeing on the install CD that the act of opening the package constitues agreeing to the Terms of Service, whether you’ve read them or not. With Twitter, the only way to opt-out is to not use Twitter.
- you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense)
That copyright of yours? The one they just said you retained? You’ve just given them license to use it. They’re not claiming your words, they’re claiming the right to reuse your words. So, sure, maybe they’ll be nice and attribute anything of mine they use to @falconesse, but they don’t have to. And royalty-free? Well, cats and kittens, that means they don’t have to pay you a single penny.
- to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content
“If there’s any synonym for reproducing we’ve missed, we’ll add it in later.” “Publishing’s” the term that most concerns me. Not that any of my tweets are worth inclusion anywhere, but let’s say they decided to publish a book of Twitticisms and collect the 100 wittiest tweets. Let’s say mine’s one of them. Under the Terms of Service, they can use it, without even letting me know they’re going to. And they don’t have to compensate me in any way.
Think about it: how many successful people and celebrities of all caliber are on Twitter right now? They could do a whole damned series if they wanted to: Cooking Tips from the Twitterati; Writing Tips from the Twitterverse; Political Twisdom. They don’t have to pay anyone a dime. So, say, Uncle Neil does a Q&A on writing one afternoon. The powers that be at Twitter, under these Terms of Service, can collect his replies into a book and publish it, and they don’t have to give Neil Gaiman a goddamned cent.
- in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).
What this last bit does is say “So, yeah, whatever way we might be able to disseminate information in the future? We can put your tweets out that way, too.” Think about it — fifty years ago, the publishing industry didn’t have to think about eBooks. Nowadays, they’re part of the contract. But what about books distributed through iPhones and other electronic media? New ways to distribute information are popping up faster than publishers can change their boilerplate contracts. Twitter’s covering their bases by saying “we can use anything that hasn’t been invented yet, when someone gets around to inventing it, to redistribute those tweets of yours that you granted us license to use.”
So, bottom line is pretty much caveat emptor. If you have a Twitter account, I suggest you don’t use it for your creative endeavors. I’ll be curious to see how the people who have been tweeting their novels and short stories will react. Because, y’know, if Twitter wants to, they can collect and republish those into their own anthology, and the authors have no way to argue against it, or collect payment for their own work. Sure, they’ve got the copyright. Doesn’t mean they retain the licenses.