Stop Duotrope's attempt to own authors' personal submission data

Years ago I praised Duotrope's website, finding it a useful way for authors to track submissions and research thousands of writing markets. In many ways Duotrope began as an online alternative to the long-running Writer's Market series of books, with the added benefit that Duotrope compiled users' submission data, enabling them to create statistical reports on markets. Writers found this data invaluable and many of us, including myself, worshipped at the Duotrope altar.

After starting life as a donation-supported resource for writers, Duotrope eventually changed to a subscription-based website. While I disagreed with this change I understood it. Even though I drifted away from using Duotrope for my own submissions I still recommended the site to other writers.

I've now come full-circle. I'm currently writing so many short stories that I again need an online submission-tracking system. However, when I checked out Duotrope to see if I wanted to subscribe to their system I discovered something disturbing.

According to Duotrope's terms of service, "Any data downloaded from this website, including but not limited to submission histories, is strictly for personal use and may not be shared with any third parties or used for commercial purposes."

What does this mean? It means that if you upload your submission information to Duotrope, you no longer have the right to use your own data as you see fit. You can't use the data to write an article about submissions for a magazine or upload your data to another online submission system such as the site run by Writer's Market. Basically, once you use Duotrope you can't leave and take your data elsewhere.

Duotrope also attempts to make a blatant copyright grab, with their terms stating "The website and its database are also protected as a collective work or compilation under U.S. copyright and other laws and treaties. All individual articles, pages and other elements making up the website are also copyrighted works. Use of any of these original works without written permission of Duotrope LLC is expressly forbidden."

Duotrope is skating on thin ice here because you can't copyright data. But combine this copyright statement with their terms of use for the data and Duotrope is essentially saying they own any submission data uploaded to their system by authors.

I hope Duotrope will clarify the language in their terms of service and state clearly that authors who use their system retain all rights to their own personal submission data, including the right to take their data to other submission systems is they choose.

Duotrope's is valuable because of the authors entering data into their systems. Without a large sampling of authors using their system, their statistics become worthless.

Until Duotrope clarifies this situation, and affirms that their users own their personal submission data and can do with it as they desire, I suggest authors avoid this website.

Update: Someone pointed out to me that website terms of service are the legal equivalent of a signed contract. One more reason Duotrope needs to change these terms.