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Why I Won’t Upload Here & You Shouldn’t Either

By @AlyStorm

At Least Until Underlined Changes Its Policies

UPDATE (March 2, 2018): Good news! Underlined actually listened and changed the Terms of Use to be friendly to writers! Scroll all the way down and click on the Terms of Use link at the bottom of the page if you want to read them. This is honestly a huge thing. I’ve been on other sites before where they refused to change their policies and were quite rude about it, but the people here have been both respectful and receptive, so yay. Now I just have to stop being lazy and actually upload my stuff xD

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“By posting your content on the Sites, you expressly grant PRH a non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid-up worldwide, fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, transmit, perform and display such content and your name, voice, and/or likeness as contained in your User Submission, in whole or in part, and in any form throughout the world in any media or technology, whether now known or hereafter discovered, including all promotion, advertising, marketing, merchandising, publicity and any other ancillary uses thereof, and including the unfettered right to sublicense such rights, in perpetuity throughout the universe.”

In my opinion, this is the most important sentence in the entire Terms of Use. (Yes, I’m one of those weirdos who actually reads them for every service I join). Basically, this gives Underlined and its parent company, Penguin Random House, the right to do whatever they want with your writing forever. You’re basically giving up everything you could possibly give up in terms of your own rights – expect Underlined is being oh-so-generous by only asking for non-exclusivity.

On the surface, you might think it’s alright as long as you still have the rights to do everything yourself, but consider this: Your book is finished, and you have it edited and ready for submission to agents or publishers. You go through the process, and you discover that no major publisher wants to sign you because Underlined owns perpetual and irrevocable rights to your book. Basically, they don’t want to spend a huge amount of money to promote your book if they won’t be able to maximize their own profits from taking a risk on you.

Now imagine that you decide to self-publish. You work extremely hard to finish your book, make sure it’s perfect, and promote it to everyone you know. Your book starts to gain traction, and you make it into the best-sellers lists. You finally start seeing some actual money come in from it. And then, Underlined realizes they own the right to do whatever they want with your book, so they start selling it in all the major bookstores (don’t worry, you might still get credit – you just won’t be paid for it). Instead, all your hard work will translate into simple profits without work for Underlined.

Maybe someone wants to make a movie from your book. You get contacted by a director to buy the rights. You line up a deal, and then you hear about a different movie studio already working on a movie about your book. They got permission from Underlined, and Underlined got paid. You get left in the dust with no say on how the movie turns out.

Maybe you want to write a sequel to your popular book. And you do. But maybe Underlined already commissioned a completely new author to write a sequel to your story and shipped it to stores. Maybe Underlined decides to publish your original book but make major changes to it that you never approved of. Maybe they decide to translate your book into a different language and sell it in another country to make some money that you’ll never see. Or maybe the worst of them all: Underline has the right to give rights to your work to anyone they want. You basically lose all control of your own story just by posting it on this website for some feedback or just to see reactions.

Now sure, Underlined might be full of “good” people who would never do such a thing. But Underlined won’t always be made up of the exact same people. You never know who might come in, and how sleazy they may be. And either way, Underlined has absolutely no reason to want all these rights other than pure profiteering greed.

If this is the way Underlined chooses to operate, I won’t be uploading any of my stories here, and I will be actively discouraging my friends from doing the same. If Underlined really wants to be a place where writers can come together and share their work in a positive and welcoming atmosphere, this is not the way to do it.

Sure, Underlined needs some of these rights in order to make their website function properly. But there is no reason Underlined need irrevocable and perpetual rights. The rights should disappear if you delete your story from the website. There is no reason Underlined should have the right to sub-license. You should be in control of who owns the rights to your work. There is no reason that Underlined should have the right to modify or adapt your work. These are special rights that can affect the actual content and purpose of your writing, and you should be in control of them unless specifically requested on a case-by-case basis.

I could go on, but the fact remains. Underlined is hoping to take advantage of writers who do not realize everything they are giving up in order to simply post their writing so others can see it. As of now, you’d be better off just posting your writing on a personal blog. At least you’d retain more control over your own work.

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