Friday, June 27, 2008

Blogger Beware

Before you sign on to free WiFi at your hotel or anywhere else, you should really read the user agreement. I didn’t use the internet at my hotel earlier in the week because the user agreement was pretty much insane and about one step away from requesting your signature in blood plus yr immortl soul.

If you’re staying at the Hilton or a hotel owned by them, such as a Hampton Inn, they claim all rights to everything you transmit “irrevocably in perpetuity in any location throughout the universe.” This isn’t just information about what sites you go to and what you buy. They claim copyright to any e-mail, blog, etc. that passes through their proprietary ether. And by clicking “agree” before you go online at their hotels, you are even agreeing that such materials you’re generating are original and that you have the rights to them in the first place. What does that mean? As far as I can tell, this also means that you are agreeing that you have the rights to hand over to them the copyright on any e-mails etc. coming into your inbox. I skimmed this thing a bit and thought there is just no way in hell I can agree to that. I don’t know if it would hold up in court but the way this is written, it seems to mean that if I submitted a story to my editor over their network, the magazine doesn’t own it, Hilton does.

This agreement is pretty amazing, not only in its implications but in its language. Orwell would just go to town on this thing. Throughout the document, the call the WiFi access “the Service.” A distinction is made between “information” and “the Information.” Ah, I am so happy I never thought I wanted to go to law school like so many of my high school and college classmates.

This thing goes on and on and on and on and on, buthere is the tiniest little taste of the Hilton/Hampton Inn user agreement (italics mine):

“Also, when you submit information (including the Information) to us in your use of the Service, you thereby (i) represent and warrant that such information is complete, truthful, and accurate, that you own all rights in such information, that the information, if applicable, is entirely your own original, unpublished work, is not based in whole or in part upon any pre-existing work or work of any other person, does not violate or infringe in any way any copyright, trademark, trade name, service mark or any other statutory, common law or other proprietary or personal right or interest, is not abusive, obscene, profane, sexually explicit, threatening or illegal, and you agree to indemnify, defend and hold the Indemnified Parties (as defined below) harmless from and against any such claim and relinquish, release and assign to us all rights in and title to such information, (ii) acknowledge that you (and not the Indemnified Parties) are solely liable for any damage resulting from infringement of copyrights, proprietary rights, or any other harm arising from their submission and our subsequent use of the information, and (iii) automatically grant us a worldwide, royalty-free, exclusive right and license to use, reproduce, publish, distribute and such information (in whole or in part, in any media now known or used or heretofore known or used at any time, and in perpetuity), although you acknowledge that we have no obligation whatsoever to use, reproduce, publish, distribute or display the information. Further, we reserve the right to monitor and review transmissions, use any information related to such use to ensure that our policies are followed and otherwise as a necessary incident to the provision of the Service or to protect our rights and property. We may also monitor and review stored transmissions without restriction and you hereby acknowledge and consent to such monitoring. You further acknowledge that passwords are known to us.”

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