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Do You Own The Copyright Of Stories Or Content That You Post To Scribophile?

Updated on January 18, 2017

Scribophile is an online writing critique group where you can post your stories and have the members of that site give you constructive criticism to help you improve your work. But if you post your novels, short stories, etc there, do you still own or retain ownership of the copyright of your content?

Can you still publish your works elsewhere and get the chance to earn money from them? Or have you effectively given up your first publication rights by posting your work on Scribophile?

How Does Scribophile Work?

The way Scribophile works is pretty similar to the many other online writing critique groups out there.

In return for having your work critiqued, you are also required to give constructive criticism to the works of others. In short, it's a give-and-take relationship. If you don't give critiques, then you won't get any either.

Copyright issue on Scribophile

After looking around its website, I thought that Scribophile seemed pretty interesting so I continued to read up on it.

Should you pay for a premium account on Scribophile?

It's free to join Scribophile though they do offer some premium services, which you don't really need unless you want them.

This means that, yes, you can still get your work critiqued without having to pay a single cent so if that's all you want or if you don't want to shell out money, then know that you don't have to.

One of the things that I was concerned about was regarding the issue of copyrights.

After all, if you want to eventually publish your stories, you shouldn't have a copy of it posted online on some site where anyone can see it and read it for free.

You must retain the first publication rights to your own work so that you can get it published. So I had to wonder how this will work with Scribophile.

Want to contact Scribophile?

If you want to contact Scribophile, I highly suggest that you email them directly. I initially used their contact us page but they didn't reply to my message. I then sent them a tweet on Twitter but they didn't respond either. So, I sent them an email message and they finally responded.

However, please don't get your hopes up. When I got their reply, it really didn't seem as if they even really read my message since they didn't really answer the questions that I asked.

Reading the terms, policies and FAQ of Scribophile

I began to read up on the terms of service, privacy policy, frequently asked questions and other rules of the site but, after doing so, I found that I still had some questions and I needed clarification on a few points so I decided to contact the website.

Copyright question to Scribophile

I sent a message to Scribophile via email. Here is the part of the message that concerns the copyright issue:

... Regarding the User Agreement (found here https://www.scribophile.com/join/terms.php), specifically under the heading “Access and Services”:

I would like to ask about this line that says, “We also reserve the right to modify or delete any and all program and data files associated with your account, and/or other information you have entered or stored in our system”.

I spent some time reading up on all the TOS, FAQ, rules, etc of Scribophile. I then sent them an email message, asking them questions about their terms and policies.
I spent some time reading up on all the TOS, FAQ, rules, etc of Scribophile. I then sent them an email message, asking them questions about their terms and policies. | Source

Does this include any of the stories or works that members post on the site?

The mention of “program and data files” seems to suggest that this has to do only with a person’s account and not their stories but the inclusion of the words “other information” seems to suggest otherwise. May I ask for clarification on exactly what “other information” refers to?

The FAQ page (found here http://www.scribophile.com/help/faq.php) and the Copyrighted Material section on the User Agreement page clearly mentions that authors own the copyright to the stories they post on this site so how can the site be allowed to modify or change their works if the copyright still belongs to the writer?

... The FAQ page said that we still own the copyright to our content so why is it that the site will have the “right to copy and distribute… any information associated with your activities or account”?

Contradictions in the Scribophile TOS & FAQ

If you check out the TOS and FAQ pages of Scribophile, you'll notice that it seems like the 2 contradict each other.

Since there were contradictions in the Scribophile Terms of Service (TOS) and their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page regarding the copyright issue, I decided to send them an email to ask about this. It was surprising when they actually replied
Since there were contradictions in the Scribophile Terms of Service (TOS) and their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page regarding the copyright issue, I decided to send them an email to ask about this. It was surprising when they actually replied | Source

The FAQ says you retain all copyrights to your content but the TOS seems to say otherwise.

So, which one is right? Which one are you supposed to believe? And why the contradiction? Shouldn't these 2 documents be in agreement with each other?

Reply from Scribophile

I actually got a reply from Scribophile regarding the email that I sent, which was surprising, to say the least, since I didn't receive a response at all when I tried to contact them via their contact us page or their Twitter account.

This is part of their reply:

... not a lawyer so I can't interpret those kinds of documents for you. But frankly I personally wouldn't worry about it too much...

Reply from Scribophile makes no sense

What do you think about that reply from Scribophile? Does that make sense to you? Why would they need a lawyer to tell us if we still own the copyright of our content if we decide to post our stories on their site?

Does the reply from Scribophile make sense to you?

See results

As you can see, I was merely asking them to clarify the contradiction in their pages regarding the copyright issue.

The quoted text from their site wasn't even legal jargon.

I get what they're trying to say. I just wanted to know if we really still own the copyright to our stories and, if so, what's with all the confusing contradictions then?

Is Scribophile confused?

Based on this, it looks like even Scribophile is confused about their own rules. After all, other sites really make the copyright issue clear to you, right?

For instance, on HubPages, I know that we own the copyright to all of the hubs we publish here, which means that we can delete them and move them elsewhere if we want to.

How would you rate Scribophile's Customer Support?

1 out of 5 stars from 1 rating of Scribophile Customer Service

Ratings Guide:

  • 1-star: worst customer service ever
  • 2-stars: eh, it was bad and terrible, but it's not the worst out there
  • 3-stars: not bad at all. Believe me, I've experienced and seen worse
  • 4-stars: it was actually pretty good, but I wouldn't say it's the best or anything
  • 5-stars: best customer service ever

Different sites have different rules

Moreover, if you have questions about a site, you ask that site and not someone else, right, because rules can be interpreted differently.

For example, HubPages has different linking rules when compared to Persona Paper.

Even Writedge and Daily Two Cents, both of which are owned by the same people, have different linking rules when compared to each other.

So, if you find yourself confused about the rules and terms of a site, you should ask the website itself because their interpretation of a rule can be different from your own interpretation.

Besides, do you really need a lawyer to tell you if the members of your site retain the copyright to their content? If it's your site, shouldn't you know? What are your thoughts regarding this matter?

© 2015 Freya Yuki

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