Is it fair? Is it write?

Recently in my mini side-trek into the world of freelance stuff, I stumbled across the site called oboulo. Evidently it was originally a French site that is now taking off in the English languages. Basically, they pay you $10-$15 for exclusive online  rights to your papers, articles, and what have you.  In addition, they will pay you for referring others and give you a small increase in the rate for each paper if you are referred.  They make their money by charging about $4 for the download of each paper.

Now, while this could seem appealing at first glance, there are obvious associated worries.  First is the potential ‘scam’ nature of the website itself, and second is the question of where revenue comes from.  Both of these have been answered to my satisfaction.  The website looks well-organized and thoughtful, and there has been pretty widespread support and positive feedback online.  Mind you, everyone who’s commented about the resource could be lying, but they were pretty excited to get paid for old papers they had just laying around.  In addition, from the site itself, there was some revenue explanation.  Most of these papers are not normally published works – they are research papers, but most are at the collegiate or lower level.  Therefore, they are unlikely to be resources that would be found at a library.  They would still potentially have some value for new ideas or simply for their bibliographies in a certain area.  In addition, each submitted work is not necessarily accepted – it is screened for its worth, and then paid for or rejected.  This at least gives the idea that the website is invested in what they are publishing, committed to a quality online product that others couldn’t necessarily supply.

The final worry is the most nebulous one – the threat of plagiarism.  Though oboulo considers itself to be a ‘knowledge database’, I would guess that at least some and possibly many of the people who pay to download articles will be using them as their own work.  While its true that a large amount of the material available is of a nature that it would be difficult to plagiarize – historical timelines, reviews of theater performances, and sample resumes and cover letters to name a few examples – the referral process remains questionable.  Oboulo claims it uses referrals to expand their resources – by paying more both for those who make referrals and for those who get referred, they are expanding the web of potential writers they can reach.  It seems to me that if you trusted the value of your product, you would be able to rely on word of mouth without additional incentives.  However, ING online does the same kind of program, and it is one of the reasons I chose them over other online savings account companies.

Still, is it morally reprehensible to submit your own hard work to a place where you are sure, or at least strongly suspect, it will be used by others for plagiarism?  When I talked to Mike about my inner conflicts in this area, he basically gave me the idea of putting a dollar value on my morals.  Basically, is it worth it for the $15?  Probably not.  But also, I’m not legally obligated.  Honest people could be downloading what I’ve written for the value of reading it.  Or, even if not through the honest appeal of my writing, for the research contained within it.  Knowledge-wise, the facts I’ve extracted from other sources could be valuable for others in their own research or paper writing.  And in particular for some of the material I’ve written over my lifetime, the value is probably no more than $15.

At the end of the day, though I have yet to submit my work on oboulo, I have signed up.  I am officially a ‘sponsor’.  I am going to try at least one paper submission tonight.  So, if you’d like to try it out, my ambassador number is e376ee.  Enter it and you get a little extra money on everything you would want to turn in.  However, if you feel like your work is worth more than $15 per paper, or that if most of the stuff you are currently working on you need to keep the rights to for publication later, don’t worry about it.  You can also always did out the book report you did in fifth grade and see if that gets accepted.


  1. Alex said,

    March 30, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    I couldn’t find a copy of the publication agreement from the site. Do you have access since you signed up? Could you send it to me?

  2. sedgehammer said,

    March 30, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    Alex – I’ve sent it to you. Looks more exclusive than I originally got from the website, including all rights to the document as a work-for-hire, not just online publication rights.

  3. Dan said,

    June 27, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    I’ve taken up an account on Oboulo and used your number.. have you made any headway on the site at this point?

  4. Diana said,

    August 18, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    I’m just curious if anyone’s been paid by this site yet?

  5. Jeff said,

    October 30, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I have made $500 in the past year as a writer and as an ambassador. They usually pay within 3 to 5 days after your paper is accepted. Good Luck!

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