I joined the Backyard Chickens Forum back in 2008. At that time, when I signed up, the Terms of Service (TOS) said one thing. Now, it says another. And in the interim, changes have been made to it, which were not sent to members, and which significantly impact how one should post things there.
A little background: I am a professional photographer (among other things.) I have a BFA in photography from Syracuse University. I had my first photo published in 1980, as the cover of a national magazine (National Fisherman.) I have sold my photographs on and off since then, and value the copyright on my images.
I am also a freelance writer, have been for many, many years. Had my first article published in a book in 1990, and I hold copyright on my articles as well.
I would never willingly sign away copyright to any photo or article to anyone for free without some sort of benefit to someone. For a number of years I have written articles (and submitted photos) to Backyard Poultry Magazine (which has no connection to the BYC, by the way), in exchange for a free advertisement for the American Bantam Association. For most of that time, I received no payment for those articles, but I do now due to a change in ownership.
But I digress. The point of this is, as a professional, I would never sign a TOS in which I would agree to turn over the rights to the things I posted, photos or other content, to a forum website. So when I joined the BYC back in '08, I am certain no such provision was in their TOS at that time.
Not long ago I decided to leave the BYC (why is the topic for another blog post.) Before I did, I had asked a Moderator there to just delete my account and all my photos. Here is his reply:
"As for deleting an account, BYC has no delete option. All photos and content forever remain property of BYC. Just part of the signing up, user agreement."
You can imagine my surprise and dismay. WHAT?! I emailed back for clarification. No response. I emailed one of the Admins, asking to be sent the TOS as it existed when I joined the BYC back in 2008. No response again, and when I tried to log in subsequently, I found my account had been banned.
Wow. Just wow. And here's the thing: most websites, when they change their privacy policies/TOSs, send out an email at least annually to their members, letting them know about the changes. Major changes will often get a separate email. So that if a member disagrees with the new TOS, they can remove themselves from the site. The BYC never did this, ever, in my entire time there. Pretty sneaky, IMO.
I actually queried several lawyer friends of mine, and the response was, even if it's a bad agreement, if you agree to it, it will likely stand up in court. So despite me never giving the BYC permission to own my photos and articles when I joined, because they changed their TOS on the sly, now they own my stuff. And they can use it any way they want, for whatever they want.
I will note that the BYC has a calendar they produce, which I presume is made with members photos. And I also presume, due to the TOS, none of the members whose photos are used get compensation for their pics. Which to me is just despicable.
So I warn all of you who are members of the BYC, don't post anything there that you want to retain copyright to, not photos, not articles, nada. Because once it's on the BYC, they own it forever, and you'll never get a dime out of them. And if you ask for clarification on this change, they'll ban your account forever.
Charming business practice by arguably the largest chicken related forum on the Internet.
I will note that the ShowBirdBid forum has no such draconian policies, and is filled with excellent information and knowledgeable people who are more than willing to help folks learn more about poultry. I encourage anyone who is seeking a good online source for poultry info to check it out today. As well, there are a number of good groups on Facebook in which you can participate, not the least of which is the Show Poultry Group, and for those interested in Buckeyes, the American Buckeye Poultry Club group.
And in those places, you'll have no worries that your photos will turn up in a calendar or book or something, and you won't be paid for their use. Just good people and great info.