Bloggers Beware of Demand Media’s Demand for Ownership

[See my update about this: Clarification on Demand Media: Two Contracts.]

Way back in 2006, I accepted an invitation to enroll this blog in something called the BlogBurst Network. It described itself as “a syndication service that places blogs on top-tier online destinations.” Those destinations included several major newspapers, such as the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Gate and the Washington Post. While I would retain ownership of my posts, I had to agree to give BlogBurst a “perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works of” my posts.

I don’t remember whether I gave it much thought. I enrolled and then pretty much forgot about it. Whether any of my posts were ever picked up through BlogBurst, I can’t say.

Recently, I received notice that Demand Media had acquired BlogBurst and that I would have to take action to migrate my account. “With the power of Demand Media Studios, we are offering a new platform to help great bloggers like you be even more impactful and successful,” said this new invitation. “Whether your goals are building your online brand, driving more traffic to your blog, or positioning yourself as an industry expert, the Demand Media Blog Distribution Network can help.”

It went on to say this: “The Blog Distribution Network will allow you to grow your fan base and interact with larger audiences through new channels. In addition to the current BlogBurst distribution, your posts can now appear on our highly trafficked network of sites like and LIVESTRONG.COM in relevant sections or even on homepages. As before, all posts will include links back to your blog to help you increase traffic and engagement.”

Tempting. Until, that is, you get to the bothersome fine print. The invitation doesn’t mention it, but if you “migrate” your blog to Demand, you are also turning over ownership of your posts. Here is what the Contributors Agreement — which bloggers are required to agree to — says:

Your Grant of Rights. Each of your Contributions will be original and solely created by you as a “work-made-for-hire” specially ordered or commissioned by us, with Demand Media being deemed the sole author of the Contribution and the owner of all rights whether now known or hereafter devised (including all copyrights and all extensions and renewals of copyrights) in and to the Contribution, with the right to make all uses of the Contribution throughout the world and all changes in each Contribution. Without further obligation to you, we may use, reproduce, edit, change, add to, take from, translate, reformat, or reprocess the Contribution in any manner.

If for any reason a Contribution is not deemed to be a work-made-for-hire under applicable law, you hereby irrevocably assign to us all rights whether now known or hereafter devised (including all copyrights and all extensions and renewals of copyrights) in and to each Contribution throughout the world, including any and all of your rights to authorize or control the exploitation of each Contribution by any media and means now known or hereafter devised.

You waive all “moral rights of authors” that may exist or any similar rights. We may, but are not obligated to, provide attribution to you in connection with any Contribution or to display, use or otherwise exploit any Contribution. You hereby grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, nonexclusive, worldwide, transferable license to use and display any biographical information or photographs that you provide to us in connection with this Agreement in any and all media. Upon request by us, and at your own cost, you will promptly provide us with such documents and agreements as we may require to further evidence and confirm your representations, warranties, and covenants under this Agreement, including material and location releases and assignments.

In case that wasn’t clear, let me restate it: If you agree to syndicate your blog through Demand, then Demand becomes the “sole author” of your posts and “the owner of all rights whether now known or hereafter devised” in your posts. You are turning over ownership of your blog to Demand.

That’s a Demand I can live without.

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  • Bloggers need to DEMAND higher fees if they [Demand Media] want to own copyright to the blog post. I bet they don’t even pay that much for syndication. If everyone was knowledgeable in copyright and asked for higher pay, Demand would go bankrupt haha =)

    More and more people create content online, yet most of them don’t know the basics of copyright laws.

  • Great catch, Bob. Thanks!

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  • That is insane. My jaw dropped when I read that clause! Is there anything in there that at least says the original author has a license to use the content as they see fit? Otherwise couldn’t Demand Media sue you if you publish the same blog post on another site or publication?

    I bet you people are blindly clicking through and accepting the new agreement.

  • Hi Robert,

    I’m a Community Manager with Demand Media Studios. I noticed your post and wanted to point out that the contributor’s agreement you reference above does not apply to bloggers. We have several roles within the Studio and the contributor’s agreement quoted above is for other roles, not for bloggers.

    The correct ownership terms of the Blog Distribution Network are as follows:

    2. Grant of License. You retain sole authorship and ownership of any Contributions submitted by you to us under the DM Blog Network program. Subject to the terms of this Agreement, you grant to Demand Media and its affiliates a non-exclusive, worldwide, sublicensable license to reproduce, distribute, make derivative works of, perform, display and disclose each such Contribution (and derivative works thereof) for the purposes of (a) adapting the Contribution to fit within the Demand Media Network without substantially changing its original meaning, and (b) distributing the Contribution (and derivative works thereof) to the Demand Media Network.

    Just hoping to clear things up a bit.


    • Kaitlin
      I declined being linked to Demand Media as I am not sure what it brings to me.
      I would rather pick and choose the sites that reproduce my work especially if they reproduce my ‘posts-articles’ in full.
      I do not like the ‘derivative’ clause either.

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  • Kaitlyn – I was very surprised when I saw this post on Twitter, as I couldn’t imagine that any blogger would sign up to Demand Media if it meant that they lost ownership of their own content by allowing syndication. I was relived to read your comment stressing that Demand Media only have a non exclusive licence to distribute bloggers content.

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  • I think the fine print mentioned above was meant for contract writer’s and not for the new blog network. Whether or not Demand Studios is not right for you, you can still setup and host your own blog on WordPress with complete control at little cost.

  • I think one of the benefits of syndicating with Demand Media is the traffic the blogger will receive from the site. As I understand it, Demand publishes a quality backlink from their sites, which can increase ranking on your site. At any rate, the company is a leading force in the future of internet publishing and, so far, they’ve taken all the right steps. I don’t have any qualms, whatsoever about signing up for their blog network. They’re quickly becoming known for high quality.

    G. Taylor