It’s not something that usually weighs on your mind when signing up for something. You don’t make an account on Netflix and think “Hm, wonder if I should read the terms of service?” – In this case, you’re probably more interested in watching that movie your friend recommended.
It took me a while to find the Terms of Service on here. I wasn’t shown it while signing up onto the forums, nor did discobot (charming little guy by the way) show me the TOS. As a content creator, I always try to remember to read the Terms of Service of whatever site I use to share my work, it’s important to understand the site’s policies on copyright. They’re all different and range from when-you-post-you-surrender-all-rights-over-your-posted-work, to you-retain-all-your-rights-but-obviously-we-have-the-right-to-display-it.
I’m kind of sensitive about it, too, after having a bad experience long ago.
I’m making this post just to make sure everybody, especially fellow content creators, are aware of and understand PG’s terms of service, so that they can make the judgement call on what they want to share.
1. Your Agreement to these Terms of Service
Please carefully read these Terms of Service. By registering for an Account or otherwise using the Service, you represent that (1) you are age 13 or older, (2) you understand and agree to these Terms of Service, and (3) if you are between the ages of 13 and 18, your legal guardian has reviewed and agrees to these Terms of Service.
I made bold those parts because that’s basically all it’s telling you. If you make an account, then you are sort of digitally signing the TOS. This explains why I wasn’t shown this before completing my sign-up. Typically, you’re shown the Terms of Service and you have to check a little box that says something like I have read and agree to the Terms of Service.
I’m going to skip down now to #7, which goes into the copyright policies of the forums (and PG in general). I recommend you read all of the TOS, though.
User Content that you make available in connection with the Service is referred to herein as “Your Content.” You agree that Your Content is not confidential. You further agree that Your Content will not be returned to you. You represent and warrant that Your Content is original to you and that you exclusively own the rights to Your Content, including the right to grant all of the rights and licenses in these Terms of Service without Pocket Gems incurring any third party obligations or liability arising out of its exercise of such rights and licenses.
Okay, so there’s a lot of what I like to call “lawyer talk” in this, which is pretty normal for all Terms of Service contracts actually. But if you don’t understand what it’s saying, I’m here to explain
Say I post a painting of a dragon on the forums. This is my original painting and I own it and all rights to it exclusively. This is important because if you are the exclusive owner, then Pocket Gems doesn’t have to go through a third party to gain rights over my painting.
Pocket Gems does not claim any ownership rights in Your Content and nothing in these Terms of Service will be deemed to restrict any rights that you may have to use and exploit Your Content.
This is an important bit. This means they aren’t going to claim that they made my dragon painting. It also means that I still retain all my rights over my painting. I can do whatever I’d like with my painting; I can sell it, I can edit it, I can display it, etc.
Pocket Gems has no obligation to monitor or enforce your intellectual property rights in or to Your Content. Pocket Gems shall not be responsible for another user’s misuse or misappropriation of any of Your Content.
You hereby grant to Pocket Gems a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, (with the right to sublicense), to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast and otherwise exploit for any purpose Your Content via the Service or by any other means.
So that first paragraph basically says that Pocket Gems is not responsible for my painting. If somebody copies it or messes it up, I can go to PG, but PG doesn’t have to help me. I also cannot sue Pocket Gems over another user misusing my painting; Pocket Gems is not responsible for user behavior.
What the second paragraph is saying is that if I post my painting on their forums, then they gain rights over my painting. They may alter it, post it elsewhere, and even sell it, and they are not obligated to send me any of the profits of doing so.
(As for asking for my “[explicit] permission”, the TOS is a binding contract between user and company – this is how they ask. So, after agreeing to this TOS, if I post my painting on their forums, I am thereby granting permission to PG to use my painting, because that’s the contract I agreed to. I post work – they can use the work.)
You also hereby grant to Pocket Gems the right to sublicense and authorize others to exercise any of the rights granted to Pocket Gems under these Terms of Service.
Again, posting on their forums gives PG the same rights as you do over your work. So when I post my painting, PG can - just like me - pass the rights to my painting on to others as well.
You further hereby irrevocably grant to Pocket Gems the unconditional right to use and exploit your name, voice, persona and likeness included in any User Content and in connection with any User Content, without any obligation to you.
I had to re-read this a few times. I actually have never seen this before.
I’m going to use an illustration to explain this one: Say my name is Mary Smith, and I reveal that in a forum post. They can go over to their blog and use my name (for instance, “Mary Smith says I love War Dragons!). If I post on the forums a video, they can use my voice, my persona, and my likeness in ads (for instance, they can use a clip of Mary Smith destroying a base in an advertisement for the game; they can use a picture of Mary Smith having fun playing their game in a poster).
They can do all of this “without any obligation to you” – so Mary Smith will receive nothing (i.e. no royalties). And again, they don’t need to ask “explicit” permission to do so.
Except as prohibited by law, you waive any rights of attribution and/or any moral rights you may have in Your Content, regardless whether Your Content is altered or changed in a manner not agreeable to you.
What this means is that Pocket Gems may alter my painting in a way I don’t like. But because we both share the same rights over the painting, I can’t say “hey, stop it”.
Generally, sharing the same rights kind of entails losing a few as well. When you share rights with someone over a work, you can think of it almost like a weird marriage. You and they are free to do whatever you want with the work and can’t nag each other about what the other does (or doesn’t do).
As a content creator, this definitely affects what I feel comfortable posting. I wanted to post this, since I know many don’t think to read the Terms of Service, and I don’t blame them – it’s a lot of flowery talk and can be difficult to understand sometimes. But I know from personal experience that having a better understanding of the service leads to a better overall experience. I hope you were already aware of these terms, and if not then I hope I explained them well.