Clarification on Demand Media: Two Contracts

After my earlier post about Demand Media, I received a comment from a Demand Media community manager who said that the contract I cited is not the contract that applies to bloggers. I went back and checked the contract that was presented to me when I was invited to migrate my BlogBurst account to Demand. I see now that there are, in fact, two contracts, both presented on the same page.

On the sign-up page, there is a scroll box that contains an agreement titled, “Demand Media Blog Distribution Network Agreement.” Just below that, there is a hyperlink that says, “View Agreement in New Window.” Below the box and the link is a checkbox that says, “I have read, understand and agree to the Blog Distribution Agreement, Terms of Use, Code of Ethics and Privacy Policy.” Each of those references is a hyperlink to the full document.

Here’s the mix-up. The contract shown in the scroll box is different than the contract you get if you click “View Agreement in New Window.” It is also different from the one you get from the link next to the checkbox titled “Blog Distribution Agreement.”

In the scrollbox is the agreement that the community manager described. It says:

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.

But if you click on either of the hyperlinks below that — the one that says “View Agreement in New Window” or the one labeled “Blog Distribution Agreement” — you get the contract I cited in my earlier post, the one in which Demand gets all ownership rights.

So, how would this play out legally? You are presented with one version of an agreement in a scrolling box (one in which you retain your rights), but you then must click a checkbox that says you agree to an entirely different version (one in which you give away your rights).

Most likely, this is a mistake on Demand’s part in creating this page and setting up the links. But it is a mistake that could have confusing legal consequences. Unless and until it is fixed, I wouldn’t check that box.