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Why “Terms Later” Matters

Tom Tomorrow learned the hard way about the soul-sucking “product now, terms later” information world:

And the thing is, I didn’t go to Slate saying, hey can I please work for you? I’ll sign anything you want! They asked me to contribute a piece, I agreed–and a month later, I find out that if I want to be paid, I have to sign something I consider morally objectionable. And I am told that if I don’t sign, I don’t get paid. (It would have been nice to know this before I did the work, of course–I would certainly have passed on the assignment.)

Among the highlights, I am asked to sign away world rights to edit, publish, and distribute the material, as well as to irrevocably and unconditionally waive in perpetuity any rights I may have “under any law relating to ‘moral rights of authors’ or any similar law throughout the world.” In short, if I grant them permission to use the piece in any way they want, forever and ever, then I can collect my one-time fee.

Apparently everyone who writes for Slate jumps through these hoops, which I find somewhat astonishing–but I am often astonished by the things other people are willing to do. As for me, at this moment, it looks like I gave Bill Gates a day of work for free. Shit happens, I guess.