Sunday, December 17, 2017

Snow Jobs?

Are Terms of Use and Terms of Service "snow jobs"?

For the purposes of this article, this author is using the flattery-free definition of "snow job" found on the Merriam-Webster page  If you visit that page,
you will be invited to explain where you saw "snow job" being used, and what caused you to look it up.
Do tell!

Many sites that illegally publish and distribute other people's copyrighted works, for instance,  would like visitors to believe that if they visit the website, they are bound to hold the website owner harmless for whatever they find there.

Their Terms of Service may be a snow job.

Two sources explain the differences between "browsewrap", "clickwrap", "scrollwrap", "sign-in wrap" and other types of online "agreements" that a user might enter into, or be tricked into thinking they've entered into,
perhaps simply by virtue of visiting a website.

Arina Shulga on The Business Law blog

Oliver Herzfeld, writing for Forbes

As Shulga and Herzfeld suggest, to be binding, TOS have to be obvious and omnipresent and unavoidable. That means, not hidden in link in tiny font in a footer.

Like this:
They are there, but the font is small.

Here are the TOS

This is a site that claims to be a library. It claims to scan one thousand books per day, in twenty-eight locations around the world. Legitimate libraries to do not make their own scans, they pay for a license and lend out licensed copies.

One of those locations they mention is China.

They say that anyone with a free account can upload media (including live concerts, music, books, television programs, images and software programs)  to their collection. Therein may lie the source of a problem, if account holders who do not respect copyrights are able to upload scanned works.

They claim that hundreds of thousands of modern books can be borrowed (electronically), including books that are still in copyright.  They value the privacy of their patrons, so do not keep track of  IP addresses.

Some authors are discovering copies of their modern, in-copyright books, some of which may be in Amazon's exclusive programs. Some of these books, it is alleged, are available for lending in formats that are easy to alter (for instance, strip of DRM), and often, an encrypted duplicate copy of the "borrowed" ebook remains on the patron's computer so that copies may --it is alleged-- be kept and shared elsewhere by unscrupulous "patrons".

One troubling statement on the site is
As a whole, this collection of material brings holdings that cover many facets of American life and scholarship into the public domain.

One does not "bring" other people's works "into the public domain" by allegedly infringing their copyrights. Copyright doesn't work like that, that that is not how "the public domain" works.

"Daisy" copies are lawful. They are specifically designed for readers with disabilities. Most authors are happy that this exception exists to enable persons with vision impairment to enjoy reading.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

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