Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: The Grand Experiment: Registering on Wattpad

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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Grand Experiment: Registering on Wattpad

(Standard disclaimer again, since I'm talking terms of service again: I'm not a lawyer. This is not meant as legal advice. If you want legal advice, get it from a lawyer. Nonstandard disclaimer: I am exhausted, but I want to get this up tonight. Apologies in advance for typos and lack of coherent thought.)

So I'm already registered on Wattpad. Have been for several months now. It's the site that gave me the idea for The Grand Experiment in the first place. But in the interest of fairness, I went back through the registration process to see how it matches up to Authonomy and Book Country.

The "Join Now" button on Wattpad was easier to find than Authonomy's, but not quite as prominently placed as the one on Book Country. Once you click it, you're prompted to sign in with Facebook, or, if you desire, with e-mail. Since I'm stingy with my Facebook details, and I try to keep my personal life as separate from my professional online presence as possible, I opted for the e-mail approach.

Wattpad asks for a username, e-mail address, password, date of birth, and gender when you register. In contrast to Authonomy and Book Country, its terms must be clicked through to on a separate page. Once you get there, however, they take up the full page rather than a tiny box.

The Wattpad terms link straightaway to separate pages for its privacy policy and community guidelines. Why they're compartmentalizing their information so much, I'm not entirely sure, but I'll get to those documents later.

Their account terms are pretty standard, except for continual emphasis on being 13 years of age or older and a line about sex offenders not being allowed. Wattpad "may attempt to notify you" when changes are made, but explicitly reserves the right to make changes without notice as well. Users are "encouraged" to only create one account, but the site does allow multiple accounts per person, perhaps because it doesn't have any sort of voting feature.

Wattpad users agree not to distribute user submissions, alter the website, or access user submissions except through the website. Like the other sites, it also bans "commercial use," which includes "sale of access to the Website or its related services on another website; use of the Website or its related services for the primary purpose of gaining advertising or subscription revenue; the sale of advertising, on the website or any third-party website, targeted to the content of specific User Submissions or content; and any use of the Website or its related services that finds, in its sole discretion, to use's resources or User Submissions with the effect of competing with or displacing the market for, content, or its User Submissions." Not quite as stringent as Authonomy's, but leaving plenty of room open for them to object to practices they don't like. They also specifically ban "commercial solicitation."

The site's policies to protect user content are pretty strict as well. Users agree to access other people's submissions only for personal use via normal operation of the website. They are prohibited from tampering with security features as well as from copying or distributing submissions. So if your content gets ripped off of Wattpad, whoever did it at least acted in violation of their agreement with the site, for whatever good that may do you.

The grant of license (quoted in full at bottom) to Wattpad feels pretty standard, except that you explicitly waive your moral rights. After some noodling, and a reexamination of the best definition of moral rights I could find online, I figure this may have something to do with the fact that Wattpad wants to be able to display your story in whatever format they want, as long as you still grant them the license to do so. I suppose they want to avoid lawsuits if they change their site or app design and someone flips their lid. I have contacted them to ask about the clause. We'll see if they respond.

One other thing I dislike about the Wattpad grant of license is that it doesn't contain a term of license. It doesn't say "forever," or the like, which is nice, but it also doesn't specify how you can revoke the grant. There's some wishy-washy language in there about removing or deleting content that I suppose has something to do with it, but it makes me nervous nonetheless.

Which brings me to what I think makes Wattpad stand apart from Book Country and Authonomy, and why I'm willing to sign up with Wattpad and not Book Country even though both have grants of license that make me nervous. I know that Book Country authors have been published by Penguin, the company that owns Book Country, but not that they've been published by anyone else. This is problematic to me because even if the Book Country contract grants it crazy rights, it's no sweat for Penguin to put out the book. Book Country will not compete with them, because they own it. Authonomy (run by HarperCollins) suffers from the same issue.

But a Wattpad author got a contract from Simon and Schuster for a novel she had posted on Wattpad. Three other publishers bid on the same book. That tells me that Wattpad's terms are pretty safe. Four different publishers were willing to buy the right to put the book out, regardless of the grants that had previously been made to Wattpad.

So I trust Wattpad. Maybe that's a bad decision, but at least I'm making it in conjunction with several large publishing houses.

The rest of the terms are pretty standard. Your account can be canceled for breaking the terms, which includes posting anything containing "hate crimes, pornography, obscene or defamatory material, or excessive length." You provide a pretty standard set of indemnifications (if you post something and they get sued, you're liable). The contract can also be transferred to someone else on their end, but not on yours

After reading the terms of service, I clicked through to the privacy policy. It's pretty standard for a website, at least in my experience. They share anonymous, aggregrated information about you ("We have X number of users between the ages of 13 and 21"), and they share your personal information in order to protect themselves or their users and to operate the site. They also promise to inform users (hooray!) if they go through a "business transition" (i.e. they're acquired by another company) and their use of personal information will change as a result.

Finally, the content guidelines. You can't post copyrighted works (again), pornography, or graphic depictions of serious drug use, prostitution, suicide, and all types of abuse. They also ban (again) "any material that is unlawful, obscene, defamatory, libelous, threatening, pornographic, harassing, hateful, racially offensive, or is otherwise inappropriate." More interestingly, they rate content G-R. Content that includes but does not graphically depict "serious drug use, prostitution, suicide, and all types of abuse," must be rated R and is not eligible for promotion by Wattpad.

So that's that! To me, Wattpad is interesting in comparison to Book Country and Authonomy for two reasons: First, it's clearly aimed at a teen audience. Second, it's independent of any publisher. I like it for both reasons.

I'm planning to post the first chapter of Soulwoven on Wattpad this week, although I have some questions about where it fits within their content guidelines. More on that, however, as I deal with it.

*As promised, the grant of license: "For clarity, you retain all of your ownership rights in your User Submissions. However, by submitting User Submissions to, you hereby grant a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the Website and its affiliates. You also hereby waive any moral rights you may have in your User Submissions and grant each user of the Website a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Website. You understand and agree, however, that may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of User Submissions that have been removed or deleted."


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