Last July I got an invitation:
I offer you the opportunity to be a featured medical expert blogger for a new General Medicine Wellsphere community. Members and visitors will see your postings highlighted, featured, and clearly marked as authored by a true medical expert.
When you join, we will feature you on our medical experts page (here is the preliminary design for this page: http://www.wellsphere.com/medical-experts.htm ), and I will highlight your participation and your postings in my personal blog, which is featured prominently on the homepage of wellsphere.com (Dr.Geoff's MedBlog, http://medblog.wellsphere.com/ ).
We will republish the postings you’ve already written, and feature them not only on the community pages of the site, but also within a new dynamic magazine-like Wellsphere360 section, where we give users a comprehensive view of medical expert information, plus news, videos, local resources, and member postings on topics you write about. You can see a sample of a Wellsphere360 special section at http://www.wellsphere.com/Wellsphere360/diabetes-type-2.htm
Also, I will select the best medical bloggers to feature on our homepage at www.wellsphere.com.
Your posts will link back to your blog, so you will benefit from Wellsphere's high ranking and large readership interested in your topic, which will give you more traffic, additional relevant audience, and a higher ranking for your blog (we are now running at well over a million visitors per month).
I was flattered. I am an expert blogger. I am a true medical expert. I didn't have to do any extra work.
So I took them up on it, as did over a thousand others. My posts began to be published on their website, I got a nifty advertisement to put on the sidebar in my blog (showing that I am an expert). I stayed in it for four months - sending four months of my content to them. I did not see any significant traffic from Wellsphere for that entire time.
So I got out. There was nowhere on the website that allowed me to get out, so I had to send several emails requesting that my blog be removed from their list. They were "disappointed" but let me leave.
No harm, no foul? Not so fast. Today Dr. Val (who was always suspicious about this group) posted about the sale of Wellsphere to HealthCentral for an "undisclosed amount of money."
In a press release dated January 28, 2009, the HealthCentral Network announced the acquisition of a company called Wellsphere from its young CEO, Ron Gutman. Many of my fellow medical bloggers are familiar with Wellsphere as they’ve received countless email form letters from Wellsphere’s CMIO, Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge. The form letters are flattering, and suggest that the company would like to feature the blogger’s writing on their platform.
But what happens next is disturbing – to become a member of Wellsphere, bloggers provide access to their blog’s RSS feed. Hidden in the fine print is the blogger’s consent for Wellsphere to publish the entire feed (in other words, all of the blogger’s written work) and that once it’s published on their site, they own the intellectual property rights to it.
Astonishingly Wellsphere convinced some 1700 bloggers to join their network, and have now sold their site (which is comprised almost entirely of blog post content) to HealthCentral Network for an undisclosed amount, likely in the millions.
How much did the bloggers get for their writing? As far as I know, zero dollars.
In the discussion that followed, Symtym posted the terms of service:
When you post your own copyrightable content on the Website or give Wellsphere permission to post your copyrightable content on the Website, you retain ownership of any copyright you claim to your submitted content. However, by posting your content or giving Wellsphere permission to post your content you automatically grant Wellsphere a royalty-free, paid-up, non-exclusive, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to (i) use, make, sell, offer to sell, have made, and further sublicense any such User Materials, and (ii) reproduce, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and publicly display the User Materials in any medium or format, whether now known or later developed[.]
Whoa. I granted Wellsphere an "irrevocable, perpetual license to use, make, sell" anything I wrote for those four months? Really? Was I (and the other 1000+ medical bloggers) that big of a sucker?
Yep. I succumbed to the flattery and gave away my content. I wrote and they made a bunch of money off of the writing of other suckers bloggers like me. Did I lose anything? If the terms of the above license is actually legal, I have no control over what they do with my post over those four months.
The lesson: we bloggers are a commodity now. We are doing things that others want, and are being hit with more and more requests. I don't have to be paid premium money for what I do (I have done it for nothing up to now), but I do resent having others flatter me and then make money off of my work.
Beware of flattery. If someone approaches you with a deal that sounds like a no-loose situation, it is probably wise to read the fine print.