Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Does Wellsphere Scam Bloggers?

In mid-July, while I was on vacation, I received a very flattering and interesting proposal from Wellsphere, which began as follows:

“Hi Racn4acure ,My name is Dr. Geoff Rutledge, and I am delighted to invite you to join Wellsphere's HealthBlogger Network, the world's premier network of health writers …”

You can view the entire e-mail here. In a nutshell, the email praised my blog and writing, and offered to increase my blog readership through their Health Blogger Network, as well as providing innovative new features for my blog. It stressed that while I was giving them permission to republish what I had written on Wellsphere, I would retain all ownership of my content, and they would not make other use of my content without my permission.

The email was effusive in its praise and in the benefits of joining their blogger network. Even so, I was busy at the time, and figured I would get back to it later. I got a reminder email two weeks later and at that point - without even taking two seconds and checking it out independently – I joined up. I did click on the link in the email that displayed the terms and conditions of joining Wellsphere. It was fairly similar to what Geoff Rutledge had said in his email, with the exception that it clearly said that I was giving them permission to republish my material in any form they wanted, without compensation to me. But even so, it stressed that I was the owner of the intellectual property. The link to these terms of service is here and here.

Nearly a week went by, and I just kept blogging without giving it much more thought. Then I got an email from a friend and fellow blogger to beware of Wellpshere, because they had been implicated in scamming bloggers. She gave some details about some harder to find terms and conditions that essentially would give Wellsphere ownership of my content. The note, in part, said: “However, when you read the "terms and conditions" which appear to be upfront but the reality is they are elsewhere on the site and much more detailed. The bottom line is that you loose ALL copyright to your work on your blog, past, present and future. They cleverly word it so you THINK you retain all rights but you do not. They can do what they want with your posts, make money from it and you loose all rights. They make money off your blog and you could not use your own work to say publish a book in the future. They retain the copyright.” The suggestion was to Google “Wellsphere scam”, which I did.

Holy crap! I got all kinds of hits with Google and started reading some of them. This was scary stuff! There were a lot of seriously pissed-off people out there! Had I indeed just inadvertently given away the rights to everything I wrote on my Racing for a Cure blog? How can they tell you one thing and then secretly have something else take precedence over that? I started digging around on Wellsphere’s site beyond what I looked at before, and found language here that included some really alarming stuff. Included were these two nuggets:

Ownership: “All Website Materials, including any intellectual property rights in such Website Materials, are the property of Wellsphere, its affiliates, licensors, or the designated owners, and are protected by applicable intellectual property laws.”

Content You Submit to or Post on the Website: “… You agree that any and all comments, information, photos, videos, feedback and ideas that you communicate to Wellsphere or submit or post to the Website or give Wellsphere permission to post to the Website (“User Materials”) will be deemed, at the time of communication to Wellsphere or submission or posting to the Website, to be the property of Wellsphere…”

This was clearly in opposition to any of the more obvious conditions that I had been fed. I am not a lawyer, and have no idea how the law interprets one rule that says I retain ownership and another from the same entity that says they are now the owner. But my guess is that if this was Wellsphere’s intent, they would have had a really good team of lawyers come up with this language.

In any event, given what I had seen using Google, and this conflicting language, I decided to pull out of Wellsphere immediately. I emailed them and said for them to delete all my content and my profile. To their credit, I got a message back from Dr. Rutledge in less than 30 minutes telling me that this had been done, and that my content was also deleted from their servers. Of course with computers, it is impossible to know for sure, so I printed and saved records of everything.

To continue reading this post, go here.

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