Did you know that many content aggregator sites stipulate in their terms of service (or terms of use) that they can change their contract with you any time, arbitrarily, and at their discretion? Yep. Do you join content sites to write online for residual or up-front pay without worrying about the fine print?

Do you plan to donate your work to those sites?

If so, skip this post. And be my sugar daddy/momma.

I know, it’s easier to ignore the legal jargon. I’ve done it myself thinking it must be okay. Thousands or even millions of people have already joined, and they get paid…right?


Accounts–many times those with the highest earnings–are frequently deleted by site owners for arbitrary reasons. And the authors’ hard work is gone. Worse yet, some residual income writers report that their articles are deleted and replaced with pre-paid content, with their original titles and URLs intact. The site keeps the traffic.

This practice is not going to get better any time soon. If anything, it will become more rampant. And why not? Some of these sites push the envelope in favor of corporate profit and writers cave, so they push again.

You know what I’m talking about.

You owe it to yourself. Make it a priority. You’ve taken time from your family to write. You are entitled to the fruits of your labors–morally.

But what you are morally entitled to may not be what you are legally entitled to.

So read the contract all the way through before investing your time and talent, just as you would with any other form of investment. Then keep track of any changes to that contract, otherwise known as, “terms of service.”

Here’s how to be notified easily and quickly when a content site’s terms of service or use change:

Copy the URL for the terms of service of the site you plan to write for. Then visit a site that notifies you by email when the page changes. Here are two that I recommend: ChangeDetection.com and WatchThatPage.com.

Is it too late? Are you wondering what that contract said when you signed up, but you fear the original is gone?

Try this: Paste the site’s URL for its terms of service into the “Wayback Machine” at archive.org.

Oh, and oddly enough, when the eHow terms of service page is searched for at archive.org, there is no 2009 archive for it. But you can view 2008’s versions, and eHow’s terms of service to February, 2007. If this happens with the site you are looking for, do a little research. See if you can find a different URL. Maybe /terms_of_service.aspx was .html last year.

And next time, print the contract out and keep it for your records. Keep track of changes, and question those you do not understand or agree to.

But more importantly, know and understand what you are agreeing to before “donating” your writing online.

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