A few weeks ago I received the first of many email invites to join TopBuzz, then the unwanted emails started coming in thick and fast. Did I consider joining? No way!
I would never consider becoming a customer of any organisation with such an aggressive and unethical recruitment campaign as this. Repeatedly spamming people through their YouTube account is not cool, not to mention unsolicited email (which this is) is illegal. Although as this company is operates out of China, they probably have little regard for EU and US laws.
As far as I'm concerned, if this organisation can't be trusted to run in an ethical and law abiding manner before I've signed up, then what hope do I have if I join and sign away the rights to my content?
Yep, that's right. Their terms and conditions are pretty unethical too. This is taken from the legal terms listed on their website...
You or the owner of your User Content will own the copyright in the content sent to us, but by submitting content to us, you hereby grant us an unconditional irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully transferable, assignable, sub-licensable, perpetual worldwide licence to use, modify, translate, adapt, reproduce, make derivative works of, publish and/or transmit, and to authorise others user of the Services and other third-parties to view, access, use, modify, translate, adapt, reproduce, make derivative works of, publish and/or transmit your User Content in connection with the Services and Bytedance’s (and Bytedance’s successors’ and affiliates’) business, including but not limited to advertise, market and promote and redistribute part or all of the Services (and derivative works thereof) in any formats and through any channels.
So, basically any content you upload, transmit or otherwise make available through their platform, you remain the copyright holder of, but TopBuzz and their parent company Bytedance have worldwide rights to publish your content wherever they want without paying you FOREVER.
As it's been pointed out in the comments section, this type of right clause is pretty standard across video platforms including YouTube and Vimeo. My issue isn't with companies imposing clauses like this, it's just that as TopBuzz spent several weeks sending my SPAM, I don't trust them enough to give them that much control over my content.
My experience with TopBuzz started at the beginning of October 2017, here's the story so far...
TopBuzz William Has Sent You A Message
We are from the TopBuzz app, a content aggregation and discovery platform on mobile which tailors content feed for users worldwide.
We’re huge fans! The reason I'm emailing you is because we want to invite you to be one of the first creators to join our TopBuzz Creators program for our app!
Here’s a quick 10 second rundown of what the TopBuzz Creators program offers:
- Add a new revenue stream. We’re currently offering a competitive (but high!) CPM to monetize your videos based on views.
- Expand your audience reach on mobile globally
- Get more views (and viewers) to your content
We have content from publishers you may also know: Associated Press, Reuters, Mashable, Littlethings, Refinery29, and more! We are launching our TopBuzz creators program which offers one-click YouTube and Facebook channel syncing tool so that creators like you can submit your YouTube or Facebook channel link and sync your channel on TopBuzz with no extra effort.
Here is the fast lane link for you to sign up on TopBuzz, sync your channel and start monetizing on TopBuzz.
As you can see, the email is clearly a template. Obviously they're not huge fans of mine, they haven't even taken the time to find out my name and start the message with "hey there".
So if this organisation isn't even willing to write me a personal email and find out a little bit about me first, then clearly they're not going to help me grow my YouTube channel. And, if you read on, you'll see that their customer service is also pretty poor, which is again a reflection on how likely TopBuzz are to be responsive and helpful if I did join.
After the first email, I started getting more, some times two a day. Some were sent through YouTube's messaging platform, so in this case I reported the channel for spam and blocked them. Others were sent directly by email, which makes it harder to stop, report and block.
So, I contacted TopBuzz through their website almost a week ago, my email said: "I keep getting spam form you through YouTube. Each time I do I report the channel that sent the message but wondered if there was a better way to stop you guys from contacting me as I'm not interested in your services, especially as you are the type of organisation that annoys people with unwanted messages."
I didn't get a reply. Then another email from TopBuzz came through, so I sent a follow up message to TopBuzz... still no reply but the next day I got more spam, so I sent ANOTHER email to them and finally I got a reply...
Sort Of An Apology
Dear Mr Steve Ni
We sincerely apologize for bothering you.
If you’ve received multiple messages, there might be undiscovered issues in our inviting system, and we do apologize for any inconvenience that this has caused you.
But just to be clear, we are not selling products nor does the TopBuzz App take any service fee from user. TopBuzz is a free and open platform for people to read, create and share contents. To make it better, we do offer revenues to our registered content creators based on their contents’ performance.
Just like many tech startups, we are reaching out to you because we do care about our users/ potential users, and we do want to sincerely invite you to join our creators program. If you changed your mind, please feel free to contact us through this email address.
Lastly, we’d like to apologize again for any inconvenience we’ve caused.
Their reply was pretty dismissive, uninterested and they didn't even mange to get my name right!
So, I sent them a follow up email...
Thanks for your reply.
It doesn't matter if what you're offering is free or paid for, it's a marketing email and unsolicited marketing emails is punishable with a fine under UK/EU law.
I suggest you work to uncover the cause of the invite issue, as if I receive further emails I will be reporting it to the Information Commissioner's Office.
You should also be aware that as of May 2018 the law changes when the new General Data Protection Regulation laws come into effect, the fine increases to €20 million or 3% of your company's global turnover, which ever is more.
Then Guess What...
I didn't get reply... obviously! But I did get more spam. So I think now every time I get one of these unwanted invites from this shady company I'm going to forward it to them with a further complaint.
I've also contacted them through their Facebook and Twitter accounts as I find you often get better customer service on social media when things are being discussed publicly.
So now, the ball is in their court. Will they ever discover the cause of the "undiscovered issue" with their inviting system and get it fixed? My advice is to stay away from this company, if they treat their members anything like those they are trying to recruit then expect misery.
Update: 30th October
I was told (in the comment below) that the issue with Topbuzz's inviting has system has been fixed, and that I shouldn't receive any more duplicate invites from them. Then... less than 12 hours later I received another identical invite email from them!
Even if they fix this issue and stop their system sending multiple invites, I still think it's unethical, annoying and bad practice to bombard YouTube users and scraped email address with unsolicited invites.