Chances are you’re into blogging because you like writing. Me too! You might even have dabbled in freelance like I did. Have you quit, yet, like I did?
I got sick of freelance pretty quickly because of the low pay, constant need to “pitch” things to people who don’t care, and the unrewarding writing style one must usually adopt to get freelance gigs. You pretty much have to write like a gear catalog blurb or dumbed-down tour guide every time. It’s boring as hell, but it’s part of a series of hoops through which one must jump to get paid writing gigs. First you get to write for free by begging editors to publish your stuff so you can have clips to use to shop yourself around to other editors, then you get paid pennies to cobble together some shallow collections of what I call “tops” (think “top five weekend resorts in Colorado!” with each blurb totaling about 40 words), then you might get a full-page “how-to” article directed at beginners for $25 in pay, then a few years later…I have no idea what happens a few years later. I just couldn’t hang with the hoop jumping. I quit. I’d much rather work on my own projects than compete for scraps that bore me to tears. But I’ll still freelance occasionally if the project is fun to write.
This morning I got a pitch from Answers.com, all about how I should write for them in exchange for “links to [my] site!” Last I heard, I can’t buy anything with “links” so I wrote back telling them that I’d be interested in writing for them for pay. Naturally they were all “no, but we will let you know if we change our compensation structure!” or some such BS. Of course I gave them a big NOPE, and proceeded to make fun of them on Twitter. Turns out they’d been making the rounds of outdoor bloggers and almost everyone I know got hit with the same pitch. One of them was smart enough to get a copy of the Terms and Conditions set forth by this most douchetastic of companies and I thought I’d share the highlights with you.
First of all, Answers.com has copyrighted their T&C. This means I can’t just post it for you, I guess? But considering how many times my own work has been “paraphrased” by other bloggers and even writers who got paid for it, I’ll do a little retooling of my own so that you have the facts. Or at least some of the facts. Those T&C are super long and I’m just gonna pull out some highlights for ya:
1. Basically Answers.com gets clueless people to write for them for free, while giving credit to an “expert” whose picture is featured next to the article and who is not in fact the writer.
2. As a matter of fact Answers.com does nothing to ensure that their writers are really experts or that they know anything at all, from the wide net they apparently cast to find content. They don’t care if you have a single clue as long as you’re dumb enough to labor for them for free.
3. The T&C specifically states that content providers will definitely not ever, and in no way possible, receive any compensation….
4. But Answers.com owns the hell out of any content they provide, anyway.
5. Answers might disclose “trade secrets” about which Guest Posters can’t talk about, write about, or even admit knowledge of, because Answers.com has gotten such Trade Secrets at “substantial cost and expense.” Excuse me as I LOL at this, because it appears that Answers.com is pretty damn good at avoiding ANY cost and expense, let alone “substantial” cost and expense.
6. Answers.com doesn’t even know if its T&C are valid or enforceable, at least in the United States.
7. No publicity! Oh by the way, as you’re writing for free (oh, sorry, for “links”) you are not allowed to mention that you write for Answers.com or “publish any articles relating to Answers, or to these T&Cs.” See, if I wrote for free for Answers, they’d sue me if I wrote this article. But I don’t write for them for free, so I can do what I want! But how would they provide me with these valuable “links” currencies if I couldn’t publicize my free writing for them? Dastardly!
8. Answers.com will not be liable for taxes, insurance, benefits, withholding tax, any sort of tax based stuff. That’s all the responsibility of Guest Poster. How do you pay taxes on “links?” I guess you’ll have to figure that out, cuz Answers.com shall not be liable for that!
9. “full and complete compensation” equals a) a link back to the Guest Poster’s site or blog, b) an “author profile” of Guest Poster, and c) “Google + authorship credit.” What the hell is that? Let me guess, it’s another thing we can’t buy stuff with.
10. Poor Answers.com will suffer “irreparable harm” if Guest Poster violates these very reasonable Terms and Conditions and that “monetary damages” will not be adequate to compensate them for this Very Bad Harm. They get injunctive relief and “any other remedies” instead. This basically means that Answers.com can muzzle Guest Poster if Guest Poster violates this T&C. They took a page from the Peace Corps, here, did you know that the Peace Corps censors the blogs of its volunteers? That’ll be another topic one of these days. Anyway, back to Answers.com.
Bonus: my very Favorite Part of the T&C!
If any provisions in the T&C are invalid or unenforceable, the “offending provision. . . shall be deleted.” Well, then, it all seems pretty “offending” to me, so here goes! “Select all…DELETE!”
No wonder the Internet needs a good cleaning. The people who are writing it are dumb enough to agree to an arrangement like that.