More on the Issue

I'm prefacing this longish post with something of a longish apologia. You see, I'm somewhat embarrassed to be seen with in the same way one might be embarrassed to be seen with a high school bully at the prom. I feel an almost reflexive need to explain that we didn't arrive together, that I'm not's date or anything and the only reason I was talking to the company at all is because its mother sells Tupperware and one of my aunt's Wonderlier bowl lids melted in the dishwasher.

Yes, the company's services have their place, but as a writer building a career in traditional publishing with a bouncing baby novel on the way, it's somewhat important to me that readers of these posts understand my use of those services was for the creation of private keepsakes only. Vanity publishers like are stigmatized for good reasons; they're predatory, and they set unrealistic expectations about the potential for self-published books.

Perhaps that's why I'm so terged off about this issue; the more I correspond with, the more I realize that I'm not dealing with a company who cares about my work (such as it was) or my rights to it, which means it doesn't care about any of the poor sods out there hoping to break into publishing with its services. In fact, given the variated use of language in "Jeff V.'s" replies to me, I'm beginning to wonder if Jeff isn't a person, but a pseudonym for a catch-all customer service department trying to personalize its responses by pretending to be a single individual.

All that said, I don't think I'm going to get what I'm asking for out of the company, that my content be deleted from its servers while my account is still open so that I can see it was deleted. I'm glad I asked, and I'm glad I pushed the issue, but perhaps the best I can hope for is to reinvent the wheel and warn writers that if will misappropriate my angsty teenage poetry and Star Trek fan-fic, it will misappropriate any creative work. Worse, it will offer every specious reason under the sun for refusing to delete that work, if my correspondence with customer service is any indication. That's particularly troubling to me, because it means authors are not the sole arbiters of the work they upload to the site, no matter what the company tells them.

That's it, then. Apologia concluded. On with the news you came to read.

I've been in e-mail correspondence over the last several days with customer support and have reached an impasse regarding my concerns. So far, I've been told that any work sold through the web site has to remain on's servers indefinitely, even if the work was never made public and never sold to anyone but the author. According to Jeff V., a customer service representative:

"As for your print books not allowed to be deleted, the reason is that by law any book that has been printed (either by a customer or by the author themselves) we are required to keep the book's files on our server. Again this is not a Lulu policy, but a rule enforced by law. This was listed in your membership agreement you agreed to when creating an account with"

Here's the relevant portion of my response:

"...I'm not bound by the current membership agreement. I'm bound by the membership agreement in force in 2005, when I joined May I please have a copy of that to read, so that I can see 'the law' you're referring to?...I've signed a number of traditional publishing contracts in my time (you may review my bibliography at, and nowhere have I ever seen any sort of law that forces a publisher, whether it be traditional or vanity, to keep digital copies of an author's work on its servers against the author's will. Further, if such a law does exist, it's not mentioned in your current membership agreement, which I have just read."

Jeff's response to me did not include a copy of that membership agreement and did not point me to the law he mentioned in his letter. Rather, he wrote:

"I completely understand your request for your files to no longer be available. The resolution for your case would be to delete your current account on Once you have deleted/canceled your account with us, your account and the (retired) files within it will no longer be accessible."

Here's the relevant portion of my response:

This is the second time you've either answered my questions incorrectly or failed to answer them at all. Your current terms of service state that terminating my membership does not delete my content if that content has been sold on the site...I'm not prepared to be satisfied by any more replies from you that reflect an incomplete understanding of law or policy. I want for my work to be deleted from your servers so that I can see that it's deleted when I log into my account, and I want to keep my account open so that I can check from time to time to make sure it's still gone."

When Jeff V. wrote again, his reply was very like his previous correspondence:

"You remain the sole owner of the rights over your content. As stated in the membership agreement, it is not technically possible to fully delete content and retiring is the only option. If you close your account, the file becomes unavailable to anyone, including Lulu staff. If you keep your account active and retire the file, it remains available for your personal use only."

Here's the relevant portion of my response:

"If I close my account, I have no way to intervene if misappropriates my work again. Closing an account is not the same thing as deleting the content therein, and I want the content deleted while my account is still open. Furthermore, it is absolutely technically possible to fully delete content. users already have the option to delete unpublished content from their accounts, but the company has made a choice to withhold that option from published content. That's a choice, not a technical impossibility...You've called it 'the law', and it isn't. You've called it part of my Member Agreement, but I can't know that unless you provide me with the Member Agreement in effect when I joined in 2005, which you have not done. Now you claim it isn't technically possible to delete my content, when I know that it is...All you need to do is contact your web development team, give them my account information and ask for the change...So again, please delete all the items in my account from your servers immediately. does not have my permission to keep them."

That's where the situation stands right now. I'll post again if/when I have more information.