Left Coast photographer Howard Rosenberg gets the credit for finding this beauty.  Our readers know that we are quite fond of the phrase, “You can’t make this stuff up” and we use it frequently in our workshops.  Here is proof that you can, in fact, make it up.

Howard noted some discussions in a photo chat room regarding the Terms of Service (TOS) “offered” by a publication known as “Uncovered”.  Here is the link to their TOS: http://uncoveredmagazine.com/tos/

Howard (correctly) viewed the solicitation for photographs being made by Uncovered as a giveaway, a rights grab or as close to a gift as you can get. But hey, it is the holiday season after all.

Ed’s eyes caught these sentences from the section entitled “Protections from Unauthorized Use”:

“All photographs, articles and content may not be downloaded, stored, printed, manipulated, distributed, or used in any form without prior written permission from the copyright holder except as otherwise allowable by international and United States Copyright law (i.e. Fair Use Act). Works published by UnCovered Magazine are protected under domestic and international copyright laws, such as the Berne Convention, WIPO Copyright Treaty, and Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), and are not considered to be public domain. Pleases see http://www.copyright.gov/ and http://www.rightsdirect.com/content/rd/en/toolbar/copyright_education/International_Copyright_Basics.html for more information.”

Putting aside the tortured grammar, we note the reference to “(i.e. Fair Use Act)”.  Well, simply put, there just ain’t no such act.  Fair Use is a defense to a claim in copyright infringement and as we have explained many times, involves the application of several criteria by a court. The author of the terms simply made up a law that is not on the books. Nice work if you can get it.

The verbiage from the UnCovered TOS appears to have been authored by a non-lawyer who likely cut and pasted some legal sounding clauses seen elsewhere. The language is essentially incoherent, but to many photographers it sounds “legal”. It references several laws – both real and imagined – thus giving it an air of authenticity. It even provides the URL for the US Copyright office to lend an additional touch of legitimacy.

You don’t have to be an English major to see that the language is at best, unclear. “Gibberish” is a more apt adjective.  The use of the finest spices and herbs on a piece of spoiled fish will not prevent the diner from getting sick.

These ABCs should serve to remind everyone to:

A: Read carefully.

B: Don’t sign anything that you don’t understand or that doesn’t make sense to you.

C: Just because something looks legal doesn’t mean it either is, or more importantly, is there to protect you. Better to assume that if you did not write the clause, then its not there for your interests. 

Have a Happy New Year Y’All