Content Agreements

A content agreement is designed to protect websites from legal trouble based on the content users upload to those sites. When a person wants to provide content to a site that they do not own, they must agree to the Terms and Conditions (sometimes called the Terms of Service) of that site. Among those terms is the content agreement, whereby they agree that any writing and/or images uploaded (the content) is theirs to distribute. They must not upload things they find elsewhere, that belong to other people, because that is a violation of the original owner’s copyright.

The Terms of Service should be carefully read by anyone uploading content, to ensure the content uploaded meets guidelines and is appropriate for the site. Reading the Terms of Service also ensures that the person uploading content knows what rights they are giving up. Additionally, the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) applies to content agreements. Sites that allow people to upload content must follow the provisions of that Act, in that they must agree to remove any content that violates another person’s copyright. A Takedown Notice can be issued under the DMCA by the original copyright holder of any content found on sites where that content has not been authorized to be placed.

There is often more to the content agreement than just where the items and information came from, and that the person who is uploading it has permission to use it. Additionally, what the site plans to do with the content once it has been uploaded is also spelled out. Most sites are very broad in their language as it pertains to how they can use uploaded content. In most cases, they will ensure that whatever is uploaded can be used in any and every way, without any payment to the person who uploaded it.

Some sites do pay for content under certain circumstances, and those sites work a bit differently (and have different content agreements) than sites where information can simply be uploaded and then used for free. Because these sites can receive a lot of uploaded content, the person uploading the information is generally asked to accept a clause about offensive content. The individual uploading anything to the site will agree that the uploaded content is not hateful, pornographic, racist, or anything else that could be deeply offensive to others. By requesting that everyone agree to those terms, the site can quickly and legally remove anything that violates the content agreement.

The content agreements that sites use are divided into sections, so people who plan to upload content can look through them and determine what they are actually being asked to sign. In some cases, agreements use very direct language, while in other cases the writing is more complex or more difficult to decipher. In those cases, anyone uploading content to a site may want to wait until they are sure they understand what they are being asked to sign. Seeking the advice of an attorney can be valuable under those circumstances.

A lawyer can help with content agreements in two ways. They can address questions from people who want to upload content or who have uploaded content, and they can create, modify, and/or review a content agreement that a company wishes to use for its site. By looking at the issue from both sides, better agreements are made and people who sign these agreements have their rights protected more than they might otherwise expect. When an individual uploads something to a site, they should be sure they understand what they are agreeing to. Many people do not even read the agreement, and then are surprised when they do not get paid for uploading or their content is taken down for violations.

Additionally, sites can end up in legal trouble for having content agreements that are not legally acceptable, or that are too arbitrary in their wording. For example, saying that hateful content or inappropriate content will not be accepted is not clear, because the definitions of those things vary from person to person. By spelling out what is considered unacceptable, and by having an attorney review the language of the content agreement, sites can operate more smoothly and keep their legal and financial risks lower.

By working with our firm, businesses can receive appropriate content agreements that will hold up in court, and people who upload content to sites can ensure that they understand what they are signing and how it will affect them in the future. Give us a call today, and let us work with you on your next content agreement.

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