Part One: The Book
OK, this is a bit of inside baseball, so let’s set up the players.
ZipSetGo runs Travelers’ Night In (TNI), a weekly event on Twitter, where various travel-minded people answer 10 questions based on a travel topic, bouncing ideas and opinions off of each other. I’ve hosted the event a couple of times, which means I’ve been one of the people that puts out the initial questions.
On January 12th, 2011, Pam at nerdseyeview.com posted “Q1: Who Owns Your Internet Noise?“, wherein ZipSetGo is outed as selling a book based on tweets from TNI that had been mentioned for the past few weeks. Not a surprise to me, as I’d seen the tweets. Not bothersome to me, as I wasn’t listed as someone who would be in the book.
Here’s part of ZipSetGo’s take, as seen on Pam’s blog:
From the Zip Set Go Team:
Thank you for allowing us to provide our viewpoint on your blog!
The #TNI book was never intended to upset anyone nor was it intended for financial gain. As the creators of the Travelers’ Night In #TNI twitter chat, our intent has always been to bring together avid travelers and learn about the world from each other – the book was just an extension of that idea.
That’s nice, but the immediate question is, if the point isn’t for profit, what are you doing trying to sell a book with no explicit mention that the profits are going elsewhere?
One of the main complaints was that ZipSetGo’s disclaimer, which allowed them to publish the book without any real consent on the part of its quoted tweeps, goes against that of Twitter’s itself.
ZipSetGo (emphasis by Pam):
By participating in Travelers’ Night In (#TNI) weekly Twitter event, you understand that your tweets or tweeted pictures may be used in an article, recap, blog or book by ZipSetGo.com and you agree to release and authorize the use of such content without compensation (except as prohibited by law).
From Twitter’s terms of service:
You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display on or through the Services.
Not exactly in sync, eh?
Well, fine. Legalese and such isn’t everyone’s bag. ZipSetGo puts the event together, people would probably be involved regardless, right?
Let’s look to the comments.
Part Two: The Comments
The first one, from JoAnna at kaleidoscopicwandering.com set the tone, ending with:
When someone else makes money off of my words without me knowing about it, that’s a problem. I may sit #TNI out from now on.
After her, a long string of people state their general discomfort and question their future involvement in TNI.
There aren’t more than a couple major exceptions to the overall tone of “This sucks and I don’t know if I want to be associated with it anymore.”
- Michael Hodson of goseewrite.com says that he doesn’t feel any real need to protect the intellectual property of his tweets, since they’re relatively short.
- Jeremy B of budgettravelintentions.com has a string of arguments that don’t make sense to Pam or myself. A few of them:
2. Your tweets – Let’s be honest here. Your tweets are all over the internet. They are public. Any Joe Blow could go out there, use your Tweet, give you no credit for it, and make money off of what you say. I am not saying this is right but I am saying this is a huge issue because many of you know about it.
3. TNI is a mutually beneficial relationship. You get to meet and connect with other travelers, share tips and stories, gain and get new followers, and gain a bigger audience for what you do in the process. As a result of TNI, have any of you profited monetarily from the relationships/tweets on there?
4. Your legal rights here are a valid argument. I don’t deny that. I actually agree that using pictures should definitely require permission. My personal opinion – it’s a bit petty to fight over a right just because you can. If it was a post or writing, I would be upset. However, tweets are already public, I am not looking to make a profit off of them, and I think the book can be mutually beneficial. In short, is this really worth fighting about – your legal right to your tweet that you probably never even care about before now because of a travel community that you are part of?
Regarding #2, if you’re not saying it’s right, then why is it a possible defense?
#3. I haven’t made a cent off of anything related to this. I knew that they were and wasn’t bothered, because I enjoyed it. I wasn’t bothered by the book, but rather, at this point in the comments, what felt like lying about the profits.
#4. “Tweets are already public” doesn’t make sense. Could someone plagiarize my blog posts, then? Those are public. There is obviously a line and that line may be different to different people.
Jeremy B then goes on to say that the problem is treating ZipSetGo as an enemy, not as a friend. What kind of a friend uses your stuff without asking, then tells you that that was the arrangement the whole time, despite the fact that you never knew?
At this point in the comments, I still wasn’t too bothered. What knocked me off the edge was ZipSetGo’s book retraction/’apology’ later in the comments. In full:
The #TNI book has been removed from publication and will not be published in the future. For the record, there were only 19 copies published and 7 of which were ordered by our team. All profit will be donated to charity. As stated earlier, the intent of the book was only to further share the fun and informative chat that #TNI has become, however this discussion has removed anything “fun” about it.
Those who seem most bothered by our actions are not even in the book and seem to be fighting for a much bigger issue over intellectual capital. That being said, we hope that all who are championing this cause find solace in winning this tiny battle you have undertaken.
This riled me. And continues to every time I read it.
It’s bad enough to pretend that a book which is obviously for-profit isn’t, then try to write it off by saying that now it’ll be donated to charity.
But what really disgusts me is the complete disregard for the legitimate concerns of such a broad group of people, some, who are much bigger than ZipSetGo is in the travel blogger community, such as Nomadic Matt.
we hope that all who are championing this cause find solace in winning this tiny battle you have undertaken
I’ll give myself the last word.
Roni Weiss Reply:
January 12th, 2011 at 10:24 pm
Not a fan of the petulant half-apology.
If you had your intellectual property being unknowingly used for profit, would you not be concerned with that, as well as the precedent?
I love the whole numerical thing, too.
If it was wrong, it doesn’t matter if it was 1 book or a million.
The intent, for most of us, is to seek greater exposure and with that, hopefully some monetary gain. We all have friends outside of Twitter. It’s ridiculous to pretend that we’re only doing this stuff for the kindness in our hearts and the community aspect.
If people are fighting who *aren’t* in the book, that makes their arguments *more* viable, because what they have to gain is simply attacking an unjust issue, as opposed to worried about their own stuff.
Was the profit going to charity before? Doesn’t seem like it.
I wasn’t particularly anti-ZipSetGo before this, but I’m beginning to wonder.
Do I really want to contribute to the financial success of people that so wholly disregard the opinions of a great number of people that have helped them get there? Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t want to cut my nose off to spite my face. There are principles involved, yes, but I really do enjoy TNI and the people therein. I think the best way for me to get out of this is if someone else started an event like TNI. Jeremy B jokingly suggested that I do.
Hell, I’m a leader. Maybe I will. But at the very least, I wouldn’t mind jumping ship. The captain doesn’t seem to care about her crew anymore.