Party On, Darth

Here’s what the Times Union said when I asked them to remove some of my old blog posts:

“Your blog is, as they say, frozen in carbonite.”

Wow. Frozen in carbonite? Any geek worth his salt knows what that means:
You are comparing yourself to Darth Vader.

The posts I asked to be taken down were written before joining the paper’s blog section on October 28, 2009.

It’s material originally written for this site, not the Times Union. Though I allowed them to publish it,  I think it’s unfair that they consider it their property after I leave. But as it says in their TOS, they have:

Royalty-free, unrestricted, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully transferable, assignable and sublicensable right and license to use, copy, reproduce, modify, adapt, print, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such material (in whole or part) and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, including for promotional and/or commercial purpose, and to authorize others to do so.

Experts understand that this terms of service agreement would never stand up to a serious challenge.

It’s an onerous contract that gives all the rights to one party and zero compensation to the other. But, Mr. Hearst’s pockets are as deep as the day is long — and with that kind of money, you can afford to be onerous.

They hold all the cards, but there are a few things I can do. For example, I’ve been removing all the photos from my old posts. That may sound like cutting off your nose to spite your face, but when it comes to a matter of principle, a little nose cutting is sometimes in order.

In conclusion, the Times Union wrote, “I wish you continued success with your blogging.”

Thank you. I wish you continued success with your Death Star.

12 Responses to Party On, Darth

  1. As a fellow frozen ex-TU blogger, the thing that I find most maddening about the situation is that there is inconsistent application of the rules regarding carbonite . . . your stuff is still up there, my stuff is still up there, though there are a lot of ex-bloggers whose stuff does NOT appear to still be up there, as best I can see from outside.

    Mr. Pete’s Blog, anybody? Casey McNulty? Liz Funk? Father Dennis Tamburello? I may be wrong, but neither Google nor the TU’s internal search engine divulge those blog archives still being live, whereas you and I still show up in both search options. Or what about the posts I wrote where I explained why I was leaving? They’re gone, too. Fancy that.

    So why are only certain writers and certain pages subject to the carbonite treatment? I hate to come across as bitter and/or paranoid, but I can’t help but think that we’re being “punished” for speaking out publicly against the situation there . . . if you don’t ask for your material to be removed, the TU may remove it, but if you DO ask for your material to be removed, the TU will NOT remove it, lest a legal precedent be set.

    And it rankles to be singled out this way.

    If the rules were applied consistently, then I’d just say “Well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles, and I was a dope to sign that Terms of Service agreement.” As someone who works in contracts, I viewed that agreement as a protection from liability on the TU’s behalf, e.g. I would never make a claim for compensation for anything they did with my work, ever. I never in a million years would have imagined that it would be used to hold that work hostage, though, when I formally severed my contracted relationship with the TU.

    In re the contents of the Terms of Service themselves . . . here’s the Wikipedia definition of the legal issue in play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconscionability . . .

    There’s no doubt in my mind that the ToS is an unconscionable contract, and given that fact, it’s a shame that so many people (us included) have signed it, and are champing at the bit to sign it still . . .

    Lesson learned, lesson learned, lesson learned. I’ll see you on the storage bay of the Death Star . . .

  2. Maybe people need to start reading those things before agreeing to the terms? Granted, a lot of the bloggers probably don’t care, but you really are giving away the farm by posting there.

    And Rob, did you see that your posts still have ads on them? Sure, it probably doesn’t get many clicks, but anyone who runs a site like that knows that every little bit helps.

  3. They really hate you guys, don’t they?

  4. Re: “Maybe people need to start reading those things before agreeing to the terms?”

    Yeah, that’s the bottom line, for sure, and certainly the lesson learned here . . though it’s slightly trickier than that . . . .

    There is a fairly short ToS that all the bloggers sign, and which governs their activities there . . . it’s basically a list of “thou shalt nots” following the statement that the TU owns your stuff, forever. You don’t get your account set up until you sign this one. You can read and understand what it says pretty quickly, and you have to choose or not choose to sign.

    But then there’s the SITE ToS that Rob linked to in the post above, which is a sprawling, document that pertains to every single thing posted by bloggers, commenters, photo sharers, etc., is dense with “legal speak”, and which is never explicitly presented as part of the “do I or don’t I blog” discussion, nor is it easily found or promoted on the website.

    My favorite part of the SITE ToS is this little clause: “(ii) represent and warrant that the Submitted Materials are original to you, that no other party has any rights thereto, and that any “moral rights” in Submitted Materials have been waived” . . . .

    While neither Rob nor I ever signed away our “moral rights” in our original agreement, by virtue of having posted on the TU site, this clause now pertains . . . so the TU considers that we have no standing to say “What you are doing is WRONG,” since we waived our moral rights.

    We are not allowed to be indignant, in other words, nor is ANYBODY who posts on the Times Union website.

    How’s them apples?

  5. Re: “They really hate you guys, don’t they?”

    I’m starting to think so, yeah. We get the usual “business is business” speech, but this kind of culture isn’t part of what makes a good business, and the dogged resistance to removing our work, when other people’s work has been removed, seems to indicate that someone, somewhere in the hierarchy there is making a willful, conscious decision to “teach us a lesson,” or whatever . . .

    In the grand scheme of things, what goes around comes around. This has certainly changed my perception and perspective about the role the Times Union plays in our community, and about my willingness to do business with them, on both personal and professional matters.

    I’m not a social activist kind of person, and have generally been happy to just get on with getting on, but as I’ve been dismantling most of my web presence after nearly 20 years online, that block of articles on the TU is now the top hit when people search for me, which is irritating, to say the least. I’d like it to go away. But I’ve given up asking.

    Hearing that Rob’s request to have material he wrote prior to signing an agreement, and then essentially donated to the Times Union, was rejected just picked that scab a little bit more . . . .

    Again: lesson learned, lesson learned, lesson learned.

  6. You wuz screwed. I like your little secret messages that you’re planting on your old blog. Delightfully stupid, which is what we like about you. Mean that in a nice way…

  7. They originally took my blog completely down. Then — after I criticized their comment policy — it miraculously rose from the dead. Curious…

  8. Even Darth is afraid of Hearst Corporation attorneys. The pen is mightier than the light saber.

  9. Eye,

    Rexford Smith and the Home of Ms. Kristi vindictive?

    Say it ain’t so, Eye.

    Say it ain’t so.

  10. Eye,

    You just have to ignore it. I know, it stings like a rhymes with (fill in the blank’s) wife or husband of your choice. Hey, I’m all for equal opportunity and we both know guys can be just as useless a “rhymes with” as any lady.

    Don’t write about it. If you do, Mike GoodforNothing and the rest of the clan at the Useless will get a giggle. Take the veritable high road and ignore them. They’re not going to change. Save the few remaining decent journalists and people, the Useless is now comprised almost solely of vindictive little SOBs who get off on teasing people. Sort of like high school.

    Head in a different direction. They’ll get bored. Quickly. And then find someone else to torment. Think “Lord of the Flies” and/or “Atlas Thugs”.

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