Scribd Creator Terms Of Service

In If You Don’t Own It, You Will Lose It, I said:

All of you writers placing things on Scribd, the Kindle Store, Smashwords, and the like — did you check the contracts/Terms of Service you were signing/agreed to? If one of you hit it big, what exploitation rights did you wind up giving away that would let a third party cash in on your new popularity when you’d rather not have them do so?

Today I happened to go to Scribd — which is supposed to pull the switch on a big change sometime today — and looked at the Terms of Service.

Oh yeah, there’s a Gotcha! in it.

Click = big

So, Scribd signs an agreement that, for example, lets Amazon also distribute all of the Scribd content to owners of the abominable Kindle. This would be a sub-license. But you hate Amazon, you hate the Kindle, so you pull your stuff off Scribd in protest.

Too late, sucker. Amazon has been granted the right to still use your stuff.

And if you think not, they repeat:

Click = big

From the point of view of Scribd, these clauses make perfect sense. It makes life easier for them. They don’t have to send out an opt-in/out email to everyone every time they sign up a sub-licensee. They don’t have to modify their database for those who opt-in/out. That’s less work for them.

But as a creator, you shouldn’t give a shit about what makes life easier for Scribd.

Your only interest is what is best for you.

Know what you are giving away when you use these services!


12 responses to “Scribd Creator Terms Of Service

  1. In a previous post you mentioned both Scribd and Smashwords.

    Any comments on that contract?

  2. I haven’t been to study Smashwords yet. Another time.

  3. I remember a blog post not too long ago by a long lost writer…Steal My Shit

    “We,” the independent writing community (which functions without any governance, as most independent communities do) won’t revolt against this and even if we do, “They” won’t give a shit either way. Why? Because “We” are so fucking desperate for exposure and visibility we are knowingly taking the risks of our shit being stolen, in any number of ways.

    “We” are kind of pathetic. The mainstream publishing system isn’t dead, yet, unfortunately, and the indies are an itty-bitty fly in the muck of it all.

    One by one we can deconstruct the wasteland that is being built up around the fragile publishing industry to support independents. Because it isn’t really supporting us so much as it is exploiting the hell out of us. But who’s making money and benefiting? No one, there’s not enough volume of independent releases for a scribd or amazon or smashwords or bookbuzzer or whateverthefuck cutesy name is out there to exist parasitically off our work. We need them.

    “We” writers and artists need to build the right infrastructure that supports our need for visibility while protecting our artistic license. If we leave it up to technologists and affiliate marketers, we’re going to get the gang rape we deserve.

    Thanks, though, for bringing this up. Important stuff.


  4. Pingback: Gang Raped By Technology and Affiliate Marketers « Eat My Book by lenox parker

  5. Now that you’ve read it, go listen AGAIN to Harlan Ellison and you will understand WHY he attacks fucking amateurs:

  6. Hi Mike,

    Absolutely, authors using any service or broadcast app need to look at Terms of Service. You say you find a “gotcha” in Scribd’s terms so I’ve asked them about it and meantime, am looking at your red underlines, and can’t really see a problem.

    When I upload a story, book, presentation, etc., I give Scribd the right to distribute it, so that readers can print, SOLELY IN ORDER TO PUBLISH AND PROMOTE my user content.

    I don’t see a problem with that.

    I don’t really see a problem with the second red-underlined passage either — if I remove my content and there are still traces of it hanging around with any of their sublicensees — I’m guessing partners like Mimeo, Blurb, MagCloud, who are printing for them — hanging around (SURVIVE ANY TERMINATION OR EXPIRATION OF THE LICENSE GRANTED) they want to be protected in case users have sent the doc to be printed and that happens after the user takes down the content. And other stuff. I can’t imagine.

    It makes sense to me but maybe I’m naive and certainly I’m no lawyer but, as I said, I’ve asked them about it and look forward to their response. A little paranoia might be good. Maybe they have evil plans to publish a book with my stories in it and keep all the money…but I seriously doubt it.

    More later.

  7. Last summer, there was a huge uproar when Amazon yanked copies of 1984 from customers’ Kindles because the edition is question was discovered to have violated copyright. HOW DARE THEY!!!

    Ebook vendors who want to stay in business do so by storing customers’ purchases in an online library. This library stores copies of every book they bought EVEN IF THAT EDITION OF THAT BOOK GOES OUT OF PRINT.

    The terms you’re getting all hot and bothered about are included so that should Scribd develop an affiliate program or, as you’ve noted, contract with another vendor to carry content, any items subsequently purchased can be held in the buyer’s “library” in perpetuity.

    Can those affiliates/vendors continue to sell out-of-print items after they’ve been withdrawn. Yes, but it’s usually because of poor monitoring of the system–I have a few titles in that situation as we speak I’m working to have taken off sale. But there’s no question it’s a technical problem and nothing more.

    You can’t have it both ways. Either vendors must be allowed to retain copies of “out-of-print” ebooks so people who bought them can continue to enjoy them, or you’ll have to accept that they can delete them from your personal library when the author or publisher removes them from sale.

  8. >>>any items subsequently purchased can be held in the buyer’s “library” in perpetuity.

    No. There’s nothing in the contract to specifically state that. A lawyer will tell you that sort of provision must be explicitly stated. And I’d have no objection if that was the case. And not every vendor offers a personal cloud library component. I don’t think Sony does. You’re expected to store your books locally, I think.

  9. Pingback: Self-Publishing Review | Blog | Get it Together, Lulu

  10. I will wait for you to be trapped in the grip of a contract clause that is interpreted to your extreme detriment. In the meantime, put a reminder somewhere to tell you to come back here on that dark day and say I was right.

  11. Carla,

    If you consider an extreme case it might make it easier for you to see this from Mike’s point of view.

    Consider the possibility that you release a book and it becomes an instant hit. Not a small hit, a huge one. You are about to become the next J. K. Rowling.

    At that point in time, your previous writings become quite valuable and someone could use that contract clause to publish those previous writings without ever giving you a penny for it.

    If enough money is potentially involved you would be surprised at how many people misplace their principles.

    While I agree that there are situations in which Scribd must be protected from not being able to meet its obligations to other users, this could probably have been done with more precise wording which would leave no room for doubt.


  12. That’s a very extreme case. But it’s true the writer would have zero influence over the price. So a bookstore could do something like, “Buy X and get the new hot best-selling Y for FREE!!” There are any number of ways this could be abused. And if the abuse flows to the writer and the money flows to the bookstore, does anyone really think anyone will care outside of the writer? The bookstore makes money, their customers get some sort of price break, and the writer gets screwed. Again.