Friday, March 4, 2011

Obituary site's lawyers ponder a grave dilemma

   One of my darling, ever-vigilant whistle-blower elves -- this one in Illinois -- has informed me that has retained a high-powered Chicago law firm to determine whether its so-called user agreement will hold up in court. I say 'so-called' because the user never agrees to the "agreement," and is unaware of the rights and privileges that Legacy is claiming with respect to its stash of millions of obituaries.

   Media One's CEO informed me on Monday that he had removed Legacy's  paywall, which enables Legacy to charge a fee after 30 days to anyone who wants to view an online obituary.
   The 30-day limit, however, is still in effect, according to Media One's web site. As I have vowed before, we will launch a nonprofit site where obituaries that have appeared in a newspaper can be posted online free of charge, forever, if the paywall is not removed.
   Legacy's whole business plan, and millions of dollars, are at stake if it can't devise a way to operate fairly and legally.
   If you have posted an obituary since 1998 in any of the 124 U.S. newspapers that use Legacy to handle their obituary services, you are supposedly bound by a brashly larcenous policy that you have very likely never seen. 
   When you write an obituary, and then pay to have it published, you regard it as yours, do you not? It is your writing, your family, your loved one, your grief. You don't SELL it to the newspaper or to Legacy; you PAY them for the service of publishing YOUR WORK, which remains yours.
  Not according to Their ambitious and expansive business plan depends on being able to charge you to view your own "product," and also to do whatever it wishes with your work "in perpetuity."
   I have provided and underlined part of this outlandish "agreement" in my February 22 post. You can get the idea of its grandiose claims from the first sentence: You grant, Inc., its affiliates (including its Affiliate Newspapers), and related entities 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,
    It goes on and on.
    If you want to read the whole ridiculous, cynical and really quite barbaric document, you can find it at: