I like this headline. Tickemaster is the aggregator or gateway through which millions of tickets for all kinds of events are sold each year. It is the 800 lb. gorilla of the industry, a financial intermediary which has become so successful that most people don’t even think about alternatives (Stubhub, maybe – though that’s not quite apples to apples).
Similarly, Withoutabox and Filmfreeway exist to make it easy for filmmakers to find and submit to multiple film festivals while making the film festivals themselves more visible to contestants. It’s a win/win, though the business model for Withoutabox and Filmfreeway differs from Ticketmaster in that the people who submit pay no additional fees – it’s all taken out of the festivals’ end.
But the comparison to Frazier/Ali may be even better.
In 1971, Joe Frazier, the reigning heavyweight boxing champ – clearly worthy and the establishment choice – faced off against loud-mouthed but gifted and undefeated competitor Muhammad Ali in what was billed as the “Fight of the Century.”
Withoutabox is Joe Frazier in this match-up, home to the Sundance and Tribeca film festivals and subsidiary of IMDb which in turn is a subsidiary of Amazon.
Filmfreeway is Ali including trash talk, as it has aggressively gone after Withoutabox in its marketing.
I’m not judging.
In this instance, though, it’s not clear who will win the fight or if they can peacefully co-exist.
The numbers tell part of the story. Although Filmfreeway is a much newer enterprise, each company boasts about 3,000 festivals. Withoutabox has Tribeca and Sundance, but Filmfreeway has Cannes. And if social media is any benchmark (well, it is — but you decide how important), Twitter stats offer an interesting side to the story:
· Withoutabox: 13.7K followers, 230 likes, 782 tweets
· Filmfreeway: 86.4K followers, 7.6K likes, 5,763 tweets
Somebody has figured out how to appeal to the social media generation.
Back to the Ticketmaster comparison: both companies are well-established and dominant.
I signed up for both services just to see what the process is like, but I confess I got stuck in the terms of service section of Filmfreeway when I couldn’t learn anything about the people behind the company and decided to wander the site to learn more (I couldn't find anything about the Filmfreeway team on the site).
I wound up reading the Terms of Service.
I doubt FilmFreeway's terms are significantly different from most other terms & conditions / terms of service — you know, the stuff that goes on forever and that almost no one reads anymore but should — for everything from on line music services to cell phone carriers and software licenses.
Why should everyone read them?
Because the fine print these days is frightening and marks a shift in the balance of power between consumers and companies. See this recent multi-part series by the New York Times for the details.
I want to be very clear: from all accounts, Filmfreeway seems to be a huge success, so it must be doing a lot of things right. And I'm not singling them out as unique.
I just happened to come across their stuff first.
Here are some excerpts for your viewing pleasure (I’ve added in the italics), but the gist of it is this:
1. They can change the terms anytime without informing you of the change, and it’s up to you to find the changes: if you continue to use the service after they make a change, they assert that you’ve agreed to the change. In other words: it’s on you to read the fine print CONSTANTLY. Well, that sucks. [section 1.2]
2. By submitting your entry through them, you give them the explicit right to use your name and project in marketing Filmfreeway. Even if you don’t like your experience with them. I’d say that sucks, too. [section 7.2]
3. Not only can they delete your stuff (if you put up stuff you shouldn’t, fair enough), but as written they actually have final cut! Whaaat? [section 8.2]
4. As written, it looks like they can take your money and suspend operations before even submitting money to the festival on your behalf, without repercussion. And you relieve them of any liability for it. Y’know, part of me is thinking “yeah, OK, that’s just standard boilerplate.” But as a sentient human being I’m thinking “you must be f**king kidding me.” [section 11]
5. They actually put in writing that they make no guarantee that the system will work. At all. Seriously? [section 14]
6. They insist that you release them from any other liability arising from third parties. Yeah, OK, I can see this making sense for them, but on the other hand, if Filmfreeway does something which causes a problem you’re still giving them a free pass because the language is so broad it includes this gem of an exemption for them: “…damages…of every kind and nature, known and unknown…” Wouldn’t it be cool if individual people could negotiate terms like this? [section 16]
7. They have no responsibility to keep your information secure (that would include credit card data). Nice for them. [section 17]
8. Oh – and by the way – if you want to take them to court anyway, forget it: you agree to binding arbitration…in Canada.
I want to write once more: I don’t suspect these terms are all that different from anything else we just click “accept” on these days. And I have no axe to grind with Filmfreeway at all. It’s probably even the case that if you bypass Filmfreeway altogether you’ll hit not dissimilar terms from the festivals themselves.
I’m not taking the time to look.
But it sucks anyway, and we don’t even know who Freefilmway is. See this cautionary Reddit thread.
What do you think?
Terms of Service Excerpts
“FilmFreeway reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to modify or replace any of the terms or conditions of this TOS at any time. It is your responsibility to check this TOS periodically for changes. Your continued use of the Services following the posting of any changes to this TOS constitutes acceptance of those changes. If any change to this TOS is not acceptable to you, your sole remedy is to cease accessing, browsing and otherwise using the Services.
7.2 Your Content.
You acknowledge and agree that if you contribute, provide or make available any Content to the Site (“Your Content”), you hereby grant to FILMFREEWAY a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free, transferable right and license to use, distribute, transfer, display and otherwise provide Your Content to any festivals or events to which you choose to submit Your Content. YOUR USE OF THE FILMFREEWAY SITE AND SERVICES DOES NOT GRANT US OR ANY THIRD PARTIES ANY OWNERSHIP TO YOUR INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. YOU RETAIN COPYRIGHT AND ALL OWNERSHIP TO YOUR WORK. You represent and warrant that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the foregoing license, and that all Your Content (i) does not infringe, violate, misappropriate or otherwise conflict with the rights of any third party, and (ii) complies with all applicable laws and regulations (foreign and domestic). In addition, Your Content must be accurate and truthful. FILMFREEWAY reserves the right to remove any of Your Content from the Site at any time if FILMFREEWAY believes in its sole discretion that it does not comply with this TOS. In addition, you agree that FILMFREEWAY may use your name and project name for the purpose of identifying you as an existing or past customer of FILMFREEWAY both on the Site and in marketing and promotional materials.
8.2 Certain Remedial Rights.
Whether you are using the Services as a Filmmaker or other Non-Festival, you acknowledge that FilmFreeway does not pre-screen any Content provided or made available by you or any third party in connection with the Services, but that FilmFreeway and its designees shall have the right (but not the obligation) in their sole discretion to (i) monitor, alter, edit, or remove any of your Content, in whole or in part, and/or (ii) rescind and terminate your right to use the Services at any time (with or without notice) for any reason or no reason. You acknowledge and agree that FilmFreeway may preserve Your Content and may also disclose Your Content for any reason, including without limitation if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such preservation or disclosure is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process; (b) enforce this TOS; (c) respond to claims that any of Your Content violates the rights of third parties; and/or (d) protect the rights, property, or personal safety of FilmFreeway, its users and/or the public. You understand that the technical processing and transmission of the Services, including Your Content, may involve (i) transmissions over various networks; and/or (ii) changes to conform and adapt to technical requirements of connecting networks or devices.
11. SERVICE MODIFICATIONS/SUSPENSIONS.
FilmFreeway reserves the right at any time to, and from time to time may, modify, suspend or discontinue, temporarily or permanently, the Services (or any part thereof) for any reason or no reason with or without notice. You agree that FilmFreeway shall not be liable to you or to any third party for any modification, suspension or discontinuance of the Services.
14. DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES.
THE SERVICES ARE PROVIDED ON AN “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS. FILMFREEWAY HEREBY EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, TITLE, NON-INFRINGEMENT AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. FILMFREEWAY MAKES NO WARRANTY THAT: (I) THE SERVICES WILL MEET YOUR REQUIREMENTS, (II) THE SERVICES WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED, TIMELY, SECURE, OR ERROR-FREE, (III) THE RESULTS THAT MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE USE OF THE SERVICES WILL BE ACCURATE OR RELIABLE, (IV) THE QUALITY, SAFETY OR LEGALITY OF ANY CONTENT, PRODUCTS, SERVICES, INFORMATION OR OTHER MATERIAL PURCHASED OR OBTAINED BY YOU, OR EVENTS ATTENDED, THROUGH THE SERVICES, OR THE SERVICES THEMSELVES (OR ANY PART THEREOF), WILL MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS, OR (V) ANY ERRORS IN THE SERVICES WILL BE CORRECTED. FILMFREEWAY IS NOT RESPONSIBLE AND SHALL HAVE NO LIABILITY FOR THE CONTENT, PRODUCTS, SERVICES, ACTIONS OR INACTIONS OF ANY USER, FILMMAKER OR OTHER NON-FESTIVAL, FESTIVAL OR THIRD PARTY BEFORE, DURING AND/OR AFTER AN EVENT; AND FILMFREEWAY WILL HAVE NO LIABILITY WITH RESPECT TO ANY WARRANTY DISCLAIMED IN (I) THROUGH (V) ABOVE. YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT FILMFREEWAY HAS NO CONTROL OVER AND DOES NOT GUARANTEE THE QUALITY, SAFETY OR LEGALITY OF EVENTS AND FESTIVALS ADVERTISED, THE TRUTH OR ACCURACY OF ANY USERS' (INCLUDING FILMMAKERS', OTHER NON-FESTIVALS' AND FESTIVALS') CONTENT OR LISTINGS, OR THE ABILITY OF ANY USER (INCLUDING FILMMAKERS, OTHER NON-FESTIVALS AND FESTIVALS) TO PERFORM, OR ACTUALLY COMPLETE A TRANSACTION. THE FOREGOING DISCLAIMERS SHALL NOT APPLY TO THE EXTENT PROHIBITED BY APPLICABLE LAW. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you may report the misconduct of users, Filmmakers, other Non-Festivals, Festivals and/or third parties in connection with the Site or any Services to FilmFreeway. FilmFreeway, in its sole discretion, may investigate the claim and take necessary action.
IN CONSIDERATION OF BEING PERMITTED TO ACCESS AND USE THE SERVICES, YOU HEREBY AGREE TO RELEASE FILMFREEWAY, AND ITS AFFILIATES, AND EACH OF ITS AND THEIR RESPECTIVE OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, AGENTS, CO-BRANDERS, OTHER PARTNERS, AND EMPLOYEES FROM ALL DAMAGES (WHETHER DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL OR OTHERWISE), LOSSES, LIABILITIES, COSTS AND EXPENSES OF EVERY KIND AND NATURE, KNOWN AND UNKNOWN, ARISING OUT OF OR IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH DISPUTES BETWEEN YOU AND THIRD PARTIES (INCLUDING OTHER FESTIVALS, FILMMAKERS, AND OTHER NON-FESTIVALS) IN CONNECTION WITH THE SERVICES, YOUR ACCESS AND USE OF THE SERVICES, OR ANY EVENTS LISTED THEREON.
20.2 Choice of Law.
This TOS and the provision of the Services to you are governed by the laws of the province of British Columbia as such laws are applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely within British Columbia by British Columbia residents.
Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this TOS or the provision of the Services shall be exclusively settled by binding arbitration in accordance with the commercial arbitration rules of an arbitration service in British Columbia. Any such controversy or claim shall be arbitrated on an individual basis, and shall not be consolidated in any arbitration with any claim or controversy of any other party. The arbitration shall be conducted in British Columbia and judgment on the arbitration award may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof. Subject to the foregoing arbitration provision, you and FilmFreeway agree to submit to the personal jurisdiction of the courts located within the city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Either you or FilmFreeway may seek any interim or preliminary relief from a court of competent jurisdiction in Vancouver, British Columbia, necessary to protect the rights or property of you or FilmFreeway (or its agents, suppliers, and subcontractors) pending the completion of arbitration.
(cover photo credit: snap from FilmFreeway)