Thursday, September 08, 2011

Always check the Terms!

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I was recently contacted by an online 'Designer's Gallery' in its Beta stages asking me to sign up and upload some of my work.

The site was well designed and had plenty of submissions already up there.  As I usually try and do these days, I took a look at the Terms of Use before I made a decision on whether to sign up, and the following rang a few alarm bells with me: 

"By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on [this site], you automatically grant to us a worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicenseable, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to copy, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and display such Materials."

For me personally it's the "create derivative works of" that is most concerning. 

While direct 'rips' of work tend to get exposed quite quickly on the Internet these days and can result in bad press for the author of the derivative work, more subtle rips - especially of concepts or ideas - can be harder to spot.  There would be nothing worse than finding out your work had been appropriated and that you had actually (unintentionally) granted the rights for it to be taken and used.

On this occasion I decided I did like the idea of granting anyone with these rights concerning my work, and did not sign up to the site.

Out of interest, I took a look at the Terms of some of the other sites I use and noticed that for some of them, the language used is far less ominous and all-encompassing. The terms of, for instance, only state: "By uploading your screenshots to Dribbble you give Dribbble permission to use or distribute your screenshots on or affiliated sites" and they also go on to mention "As Dribbble asks others to respect its intellectual property rights, it respects the intellectual property rights of others."

Essentially, the only right you grant in this instance is the right for your images to appear on the site; which comes across not only as reassuring but also in a tone much more supportive of creatives and users of the site.

Though the chances of your work being appropriated by a site to which you uploaded it may seem slim - and my scouring of Terms of Use Agreements my seem suspicious and maybe even paranoid - it is always worth being aware of what you are agreeing to when using a site.

Given the ease with which unscrupulous sorts can steal images online, and our current climate of so many designers and illustrators giving up their work for free via Crowdsourcing and other activities, it becomes increasingly important to understand the value of - and protect - your creative works.

Thanks for reading - stay safe!



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