Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I received an email this evening from Medium Support. The Terms of Service have been updated to clarify most of the problematic language in the “new” terms.

Rights and Ownership

You retain your rights to any content you submit, post or display on or through the Services.

Unless otherwise agreed in writing, by submitting, posting, or displaying content on or through the Services, you grant Medium a nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid, and sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your content in all media formats and distribution methods now known or later developed on the Services.

“…on the Services.” This matters.

Medium needs this license because you own your content and Medium therefore can’t display it across its various surfaces (i.e., mobile, web) without your permission.

This type of license also is needed to distribute your content across our Services. For example, you post a story on Medium. It is reproduced as versions on both our website and app, and distributed to multiple places within Medium, such as the homepage or reading lists. A modification might be that we show a snippet of your work (and not the full post) in a preview, with attribution to you. A derivative work might be a list of top authors or quotes on Medium that uses portions of your content, again with full attribution. This license applies to our Services only, and does not grant us any permissions outside of our Services.

That last sentence, incorporated into the TOS, is important. The examples are just that — examples, helpful in understanding why the language is changing. But “This license applies to our Services only, and does not grant us any permissions outside of our Services” matters. Medium is building language into its contract with us to limit its own license to and its own app.

So long as you comply with these Terms, Medium gives you a limited, personal, non-exclusive, and non-assignable license to access and use our Services.

The Services are protected by copyright, trademark, and other US and foreign laws. These Terms don’t grant you any right, title or interest in the Services, other users’ content on the Services, or Medium trademarks, logos or other brand features.

Separate and apart from the content you submit, post or display on our Services, we welcome feedback, including any comments, ideas and suggestions you have about our Services. We may use this feedback for any purpose, in our sole discretion, without any obligation to you. We may treat feedback as nonconfidential.

We may stop providing the Services or any of its features within our sole discretion. We also retain the right to create limits on use and storage and may remove or limit content distribution on the Services.

A good contract is negotiable

Medium’s willingness to listen to its members concerns and address them quickly matters. Is the TOS now perfect? No. Is it mostly reasonable — and more importantly, clearly explained? Yes.

Over the past 48 hours, many of us wrote posts detailing why we had objections to, or concerns over, the recently revised Terms of Service. I wrote these two:

And instead of responding “take it or leave it,” or worse — ignoring us — as many other websites would do, Medium responded with emails, with a blog post, and ultimately with limiting and clarifying terms in their legal Terms of Service, in order to put our minds at rest and keep us happy members.

That matters. So…

I think I’ll stay

I am cautiously optimistic. With this additional language codified in the Terms of Service, and not just posted on a blog to appease us, I feel as though Medium is willing to stand behind its request to “trust us.”

At the same time, I appreciate the reminders:

  • Trust, but verify;
  • Never spend more time and effort building and playing in someone else’s playground than in creating and playing in your own;
  • Never put all your eggs in one basket.

And so, at this point, my inclination is to stick around and continue to write on Medium. But I will also be investing more time and effort on my own website than I have been in the past few months, because that is an investment in me.

Writer and Kid-at-Heart, often found at Subscribe to my (free!) Newsletter:

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