Inmates and their families won't have to give up the intellectual property rights to their communications when they use JPay's email and video visitation services, the company announced in an email to EFF today.
EFF had written about an unfair clause in JPay's terms of service that declared that all content, whether it be text, images, or video, belonged to the company exclusively. That language has now been deleted. As JPay Head of Marketing Jade Trombetta wrote via email:
It has recently come to our attention that there is language in our Terms of Service that impacts our customers and their families. The language states that JPay owns all content transmitted through our Email, VideoGram and Video Visitation services. Our intention was never to take ownership and profit in any way from our customers’ content. That is not and has never been JPay’s business and we have removed this language from our Terms of Service. From its inception, JPay has pledged to make our customers our top priority and we will continually strive to meet this pledge as best and as quickly as we can.
No matter the intent, JPay's policy had real consequences for Valerie Buford and her brother, Leon Benson, who is currently an inmate of the Indiana Department of Corrections.
Buford has been running a social media campaign to overturn her brother's murder conviction. However, after Buford published a videogram that her brother recorded via JPay to Facebook, prison administrators cut off her access to the JPay system, sent Benson to solitary confinement, and stripped away some of his earned "good time." To justify the discipline, prison officials said they were enforcing JPay's intellectual property rights and terms of service. Represented by the ACLU of Indiana, Buford is now suing the corrections department for violating her First Amendment rights.
JPay did the right thing by changing its terms of service. To honor their pledge to their customers, we hope they will go one step further and pressure prison officials not to censor inmates who use their service to communicate with their friends and family over social media.