Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obit site's CEO claims heavenly motives


We received a cordial email last night from the CEO of Legacy.com, the online obituary site that is affiliated with 124 of the country's 150 largest newspapers. It features obituaries and Guest Books for more than two-thirds of people who die in the United States. In total, it services 800 newspapers in North America, Europe and Australia.
    As our previous posts have noted, Legacy not only charges you for access to the obituaries you have written and paid handsomely to have published. It also -- without your knowledge or consent -- claims a sweeping array of rights with respect to your intellectual property and to details about your family. Its business model, plain and simple, is to make money from the writing, the stories and the grief of millions of people while giving NOTHING in return.
    Judging from the email sent by Legacy's CEO, Stopher Bartol, either he is stupid or he thinks that we are.
His description of his company's mission is from some sort of Neverland, where there is no such thing as a profit motive. It has the chilling tone of Orwellian propaganda -- like the president of North Korea telling his starving people how well-fed they are.
    Bartol says "Legacy.com provides ways for people to reach out and connect with each other, from all corners of the globe, at a time when they are experiencing the loss of a friend or loved one. People share stories and anecdotes, send condolence messages, grieve together, and find support...now millions of people reach out and connect with each other and with those who grieve the loss of a friend or loved one."
   This does sound like a very humanitarian service. I can hear the harp music as I read his glorified depiction of his fiercely ambitious company.
   Bartol asserts, as if he is blithely unaware of his company's incredibly presumptuous business plan: "Legacy.com does not claim to own obituaries; we do not own the guest book entries that are submitted; and we are not claiming ownership of copyrights in these submissions."
    It is true that Legacy isn't claiming ownership. Instead, it claims the right to act as if it were the owner of your material. 
   Legacy claims a "royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right and license to use, copy, modify, display, archive, store, publish, transmit, perform, distribute, reproduce and create derivative works from all Material you provide to Legacy.com, Inc. in any form, media, software or technology of any kind now existing or developed in the future. "
   It also claims "the right to use your name and any other information about you that you provide in connection with the use, reproduction or distribution of such Material. You also grant Legacy.com, Inc. the right to use the Material and any facts, ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques ("Information") contained in any Material or communication you send to us for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to, developing, manufacturing, promoting and/or marketing products and services. You grant all rights described in this paragraph in consideration of your use of this Site and our services of making Material you provide us available to third parties, and without the need for additional compensation of any sort to you."  
     This stuff is such incredible crap! If Mr. Bartol thought his innocent, warm-and-cuddly characterization of Legacy's operation would defuse this controversy and deter our legal claims, he really does live in the Wild Blue Yonder.