So here I am, all ready to write about my day for the History Matters - Pass It On site's One Day in History project, which has been much hyped of late. But before I started writing I took a look at the terms and conditions, where I found this little thought:
You agree, by submitting such material, to grant the Partners jointly and severally a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, sub-licensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, play, make available to the public,
That’s fair enough, right? You’re granting them a non-exclusive licence to use the material. But it goes on to say:
and exercise all copyright and publicity rights with respect to, your material worldwide and/or to incorporate your material in other works in any media now known or later developed for the full term of any rights that may exist in your material.
Umm, “exercise all copyright”? Now I’m not so sure. Let’s see what else there is.
you waive any moral rights to your material for the purposes of its submission to and publication on the Site or for the general purposes specified above.
Ouch. I don’t like the sound of that. Now the thing that got me looking at this was this, which is not in the Ts&Cs, but right on the submission page:
The History Matters partners own the copyright of any materials that you submit and be free to use them in any History Matter related materials such as any media stories, published books etc.
Not just overbearingly copywrong, but ungrammatical, too. Ouchy, ouchy, ouch, ouch!
Then, as if to add stupidity to a lack of concern for people’s work, there is a section entitled, “Links to this Website.” It includes the following paragraph:
The Partners reserve the right at their discretion to prohibit any link from another Internet site or equivalent entity to materials or information on the Site.
Ok, so they’re not banning deep links, they’re just warning you that they might do so.
Furthermore, no page or pages from this website may be framed by or with any third party content or otherwise made available to the public in conjunction with any third party content without the prior written consent of the Partners
So it’s all right to take thousands of random contributors' work away from them, but we can’t in turn reproduce or reuse your work (or that of the random contributors)?
C’mon, guys, this is the web: linking is what it’s all about.
And as to copyright: The History Matters project is founded, according to its FAQ, by:
National Trust, English Heritage, The National Heritage Memorial Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund, the Historic Houses Association, Heritage Link, the Civic Trust, the Council for British Archaeology and Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
All publicly-funded and/or charitable bodies, if I’m not very much mistaken.
Now you may think that I’m being unreasonably cautious about this. I’m just some guy in London writing about his day. It’s not like they’re stealing what I write, or as if what I write matters that much in the grand scheme of things. And that’s true enough. I have absolutely no problem with them using what I might write. Indeed, all my writing here is Creative-Commons-licensed, so you don’t even have to ask if you want to use it. The problem is this: if you follow the letter of the agreement, then I lose all rights over what I submit to them. That means that if I write a description of my day, submit it to the project, and then post a copy here, on my blog (as I intended to do), then I’ll be in breach of copyright.
And that is madness.
I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt: I’m working on the assumption that this is just carelessness; that the terms and conditions are just poorly thought through, rather than deliberately evil. But really, someone there has a duty to take care. When you’re a public body soliciting material created by the public, you have no moral right to claim the exclusive intellectual rights over that material.