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Self-Publishing News: Findaway Voices Terms – What’s Really Changed?

Self-Publishing News: Findaway Voices Terms – What’s Really Changed?

(Note that last Saturday’s podcast about Spotify was recorded before this story regarding Findaway Voices terms broke and was not an attempt to avoid covering it).

ALLi News Editor, Dan Holloway

There’s clearly something about audiobook distribution that makes it a particular hot bed for hot messes. Not so long ago we had Audiblegate. And now we have something no one could possibly have seen coming with all the wisdom and foresight of Delphi and Cassandra combined (that’s sarcasm btw). The entry of Spotify into the market has been causing a low level simmer of anxiety for some time, manifested most recently in questions over the actual terms and conditions of the deals with the big publishing houses and the claim that “tens of millions” had been paid to audiobook publishers.

Now everything has boiled over.

On Friday of last week, Findaway Voices by Spotify announced new terms and conditions. Within hours, every group on Facebook, as well as kboards and Reddit were ablaze with indies who were seriously not pleased. The new terms granted Spotify, the wording suggested, unlimited rights to change and use people’s content without compensation. The phrase more than one commenter I read used was “rights grab.” Most of the other phrases were slightly less legal and considerably less polite.

Things got so bad that platforms like PublishDrive explicitly posted telling authors how they could distribute as widely as possible (including platforms served by Findaway Voices) while avoiding Spotify.

The uproar was so strong and so loud that Findaway Voices by Spotify replied within hours. They explained in a very truncated post with the title “Who owns the rights to my uploaded work?” that:

“Our goal was to introduce language that would allow us to offer authors innovative features, improve discovery, and provide promotional tools such as share cards while assuring authors that you “retain ownership of your User Content when you post it to the Service.”

There was still considerable scepticism. By the next day a full FAQ had been put up. It stated explicitly what FVbS could not do. These things include selling a book without payment, creating derivative works or alternative format without permission, creating an AI voice without permission, or refusing to stop distributing if asked to.

The next couple of paragraphs are from our fabulous ALLi Watchdog who has, of course, been all over this.

“In the opinion of the Watchdog Desk, the update to the Terms of Use showed a shocking carelessness around issues crucial to the indie author community. Waiving moral rights, granting a staggeringly broad array of rights… These conditions may have escaped notice in the Artist's Terms of Use from which they were copied, but in the context of independent publishing, they would have allowed unconscionable exploitation. Any expert familiar with the industry should have immediately flagged these issues.

To the credit of Spotify and Findaway Voices, the correction was swift, and addressed the key areas of concern with clarity. But there are lingering questions, particularly around the use of user content for AI training, which have not been adequately addressed.

Spotify did not respond to our inquiry before press time.”

This may or may not turn out to be an isolated storm. But, like the Eye of Sauron, indie authors’ attention is now turned directly at the FVbS terms and conditions.

Find Out More

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. The controversy escalated to the point where alternative distribution platforms, such as PublishDrive, actively provided guidance to authors on how to distribute their audiobooks while avoiding Spotify.

  2. On one of those angry author threads, somebody mentioned Cory Doctorow’s concept of the ensh*ttification of everything, and some of us (me included) warned those who were pulling their titles from FVbS that the same could happen at any other distributor or retailer. Inevitably, the most successful players in the indie publishing sector tend to get bought up by really large corporations intent on using them (and their customer data) as leverage to increase their market share, and somehow things always get more sh*tty for us. I remember how great Audible’s terms were back in 2013 before it was bought by Amazon! The solution would appear to be what’s happening right now, i.e. more and more indies selling direct to the reader, and continuing to develop our own indie-led solutions to making buying direct a great experience for our readers.

    1. These indie owned companies being “bought by” large corporations… you can’t just buy things that aren’t for sale. All this proves is that greed knows no limits and that the “indie little guy” will turn on us all the same as anyone else because Findaway sold us down the river to Spotify. They never should have made that deal. And they want us to believe they are “on our side.”

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