According to Eric Newman, the Vice President and General Manager of Pluck, Blogburst will be updating its contributor agreement sometime in the coming days in order to address previously expressed concerns regarding it.
Blogburst, which is owned by Pluck, is a service that strives to place blogger content into major mainstream media publications and Web sites including the San Francisco Gate, The Houston Chronicle and The Washington Post in exchange for return traffic. However, back in May, it was heavily crticized for having a a contributor agreement that, theoretically, allowed licensors to reuse all of the content from a blog to create derivative works without any compensation and to do so forever.
Recently, Blogburst put the finishing touches on its new contributor agreement and began to share the changes with many of the service's harshest critics in order to get feedback. The new agreement, which, according to Newman, is set to go live in the near future, addresses many of those concerns and, overall, crafts a much more fair balance.
Still, not all of the detractors will be happy and, while many may be swayed by these changes, others will not.
The new Blogburst agreement has two major changes over the latest draft.
First, the new agreement greatly restricts the definition of "derivative work" as it pertains to the service. Where, previously, there was no significant definition provided, the new agreement the limits the creation of derivative works to "adapting the Work to fit within Publisher web sites without substantially changing its original meaning."
According to Newman, this is designed to allow licensors rewrap text, change the location of attribution, break the post across multiple pages, display abstracts and make other formatting changes but not directly edit the text. Theoretically, it even prohibits licensors from manipulating text for grammar and spelling mistakes.
Second, the new agreement, unlike the previous one, is not perpetual. Once a blogger leaves the Blogburst network, all of his or her works are to be removed from licensor's sites at the end of one year. This is to ensure that a blogger leaving the network does not create a "content hole" on a licensor's site and that a licensor has the time needed to remove the work.
Basically, this means that contributors no longer have to worry about newspapers and magazines being able to perpetually republish their works, even years after they left the network. This change should offer a great deal of relief to bloggers that were worried about being bunder BlogBurst's terms forever,
But while these two changes are targeted at the major complaints bloggers had surrounding the original BlogBurst contributor agreement, there are still other areas of the agreement that are unchanged and will, most likely, create continued controversy.
While many will be pleased with the changes made to the agreement there are a couple of areas that many of the original detractors will continue to have problems with.
First, the new agreement still makes no mention of compensation, one of the major sticking points brought out in the original discussion. Newman admits that he doesn't have an answer to that quetion at this time, that it is something they are accepting proposals on and working toward, but is hopeful that an upcoming click-thru tracking system will convince bloggers of the promotional value of BlogBurst.
Another potential sticking point is the year that lapses between when a blogger removes himself from BlogBurst and when his work is finally removed. On the Web, one year can be a long time and no doubt many bloggers would prefer a shorter delay.
Fortunately, the delay in question is simply the longest that it is legally allowed and not, most likely, how long it will remain. Though only time will tell, it seems likely that most licensors will remove the work as soon as feasible.
However, even with the objections taken into account, there is little doubt that the new contributor agreement is a vast improvement over the old one. While it is not perfect, it is unlikely that any agreement that was forced to strike such a delicate balance as the one between bloggers and licensors could be.
In the end, this new agreement does a great job addressing most of the complaints that bloggers had about the service and, if the new click-thru software shows that bloggers do gain a significant amount of promotion when their work is reused, BlogBurst will have gone a long way toward validating itself as a useful, blogger-friendly service.
While many, understandably, will argue against the lack of compensation, it clearly isn't BlogBurst's focus at this time. Other services, such as ScooptWords may be better aimed at those that put a higher value on compenation than promotion.
Personally, I plan to reenter my blog into BlogBurst once the new contributor agreement goes live and I am overall very pleased with the agreement. It may not be perfect, but it is a huge step in the right direction.
Nonetheless, I will be following this story and watching BlogBurst for any furture developments. As a service that syndicates content to the mainstream media, its role in the fight against plagiarism is crucial.
Disclaimer: I performed consulting duties for BlogBurst prior to this article. I was in no way responsible for the new agreement, but offered my honest opinions on it after seeing the draft.