Eric D. Snider

Eric D. Snider's Blog

Shaming Live Universe into paying what they owe you actually works!

The story so far: My website was an ad affiliate for the Peerflix Media Network, and my payments arrived regularly each month. Then Peerflix was bought by Live Universe, whereupon the checks immediately stopped coming. E-mails to my contact at Peerflix, who was now a Live Universe employee, yielded no answers. When she responded at all (about one response for every three e-mails I sent), it was to say she still didn’t know when I’d be getting paid.

With no way of contacting anyone else at Live Universe, and having no recourse short of filing a lawsuit, I wrote about it on my blog, here and here. I hoped that a little public shaming would spur Live Universe to action. This got a little bit of attention, but not much.

Last week, I set up a new website: www.Live-Universe-Owes-Me-Money.com. The idea was that people who were in the same position as me (and there are dozens, if not hundreds, of us) could tell their stories, and we’d keep a running tally of how much money Live Universe owed its affiliates. I posted my own story, got a colleague of mine to post hers, and then started sending out e-mails to relevant blogs and message boards, trying to get some more publicity.

On Friday, I got an e-mail from someone at Live Universe! Someone other than the worthless contact I already had, I mean. This guy wrote:

Just recently became aware of the situation of an outstanding balance with your site and Peerflix/LiveUniverse.

Want to work with you to better understand the situation & resolve it for you.

Can you please advise what the best # to reach you at on Monday is?

I wrote back and said, well, the situation is pretty easy to resolve: pay me the $600 you owe me. There’s not much to discuss. But sure, here’s my phone number, call me anytime Monday, etc.

He was still in his office when I e-mailed back, I guess, because he called me immediately. He was very eager to get things settled, as was I. He sort of apologized for Live Universe dropping the ball during the transition period after they acquired Peerflix, while also sort of making it sound like hey, it wasn’t HIS fault, and I shouldn’t blame the entire Live Universe company. He was very concerned about Live Universe’s public image, as if the company hadn’t done anything worthy of the public scorn I’d given them.

But he said they were planning to cut me a check on Monday.

So that would be it! Everything would be taken care of.

Except no: He also said Live Universe wanted me to take down the Live-Universe-Owes-Me-Money site, AND go back and remove the blog entries I’d already written about it — not just update them to indicate the matter had been settled, but actually remove them, like it never happened. He made it sound like this was a prerequisite for getting paid.

“We don’t want people to get the wrong impression,” he said.

Now, friends, here is where I am proud of myself. I said (and I am paraphrasing myself as best as I can): “What wrong impression would that be? The impression that you owed me $600, that you strung me along for several months, and that the only way I could get you to pay me was by publicly shaming you into doing it? Because that would actually be the RIGHT impression, because that’s what happened.”

He halfheartedly suggested I should have gone over my Peerflix/Live Universe contact’s head and reached someone else, rather than going public. I told him that when you call the phone number for Live Universe’s main office, you get a computer system that will only connect you to a live human if you know their name or extension. Having no idea how large the company was, or how many employees it had, what was I supposed to do? Try extensions at random until I found someone who could help?

Anyway, he said he would talk to the company’s general counsel over the weekend, get everything squared away, and that hopefully we’d be able to get me paid on Monday. All weekend I thought: They’re going to try to make me sign something, aren’t they? These bastards, who owe me $600 no matter what, are going to try to introduce new hoops I have to jump through in order to get paid?

The guy called back on Monday and said the general counsel had whipped up a “pretty basic, standard” form for me to sign and e-mail back to them. He e-mailed it to me. Most of it was, in fact, basic stuff: Once we pay you this money that’s the end of it, neither of us has any further obligation to the other, you won’t come along and sue us later, etc. No big deal.

But there were also these two clauses (“Publisher” is me):

3.  Non-disparagement. Publisher hereby agrees that Publisher will not engage in any conduct or communications designed to disparage LU, including, but not limited to, the publishing of blogs, websites or other communications.

8.  Confidentiality. The Parties agree to keep the terms of this Agreement confidential at all times beginning from date hereof.

In other words, not only would I not be allowed to publicly criticize Live Universe for this shameful bullying, I wouldn’t even be allowed to TELL you that I wasn’t allowed to criticize them.

I sent back this reply:

Here is the problem: I already did everything I need to do to be entitled to $600 from Live Universe. I ran the Peerflix ad code on my site for three months. That was what was required of me, and I did it. The fact that LU didn’t pay me, and was unresponsive to my attempts to get paid, and that I subsequently wrote about it, has NO BEARING on the fact that you owe me $600. I am entitled to that money whether I sign this or not. You know that as well as I do.

I will not sign anything that requires me to a) not talk about the fact that I’m signing something or b) refrain from ever disparaging LU again.

I will sign this document only if items #3 (non-disparagement) and #8 (confidentiality) are removed. The rest of it is fine. Revise the document and I’ll be glad to sign it. And I urge you to bear in mind that I am entitled to the $600 whether I sign anything or not.

It is a terrific feeling to be RIGHT. There was no gray area here: This company owed me money, and nothing in our original agreement stipulated that criticizing them publicly was grounds for not paying me. I was entitled to $600 no matter what.

I couldn’t believe what jackasses they were being, though. I guess they figured us little people would be so glad we were finally being paid that we’d happily sign anything just to have it over with. It was a desperate Hail Mary play, trying to squeeze some tiny amount of good (the quashing of negative publicity) out of a bad situation that THEY HAD CREATED.

But I called them on their bullcrap.

And they instantly caved.

The lawyer wrote back:

Are you agreeable to including the obligation to take down the www.live-universe-owes-me-money URL in exchange for striking the two paragraphs you mention?

Sure, I said. I’d originally considered keeping that site up after they’d paid me, to give other unpaid victims a forum to speak out, but eh, I don’t need another crusade in my life. I told her I’d agree to take the site down. There was no mention of removing my previous blog entries or any of the other derogatory things I’ve said about the company elsewhere.

She sent a revised contract, without the confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses, and with the take-down-that-site paragraph added; I signed it, scanned it, and e-mailed it back; and the $600 was wired to my bank account today.

It is over! I have emerged victorious! Not only did I get my money, but I retained my right to disparage Live Universe all I want! I retained my right to tell you this whole story, including the part about how they didn’t want me to tell you this story! Honestly, standing up to The Man and WINNING is almost as great as finally getting my money. (Almost.)

Let us rejoice together in our freedom to disparage Live Universe — which, I should add, still owes thousands of dollars to many, many other people like me. Live Universe is a dishonest company, and its owners should be ashamed of themselves. I’m glad to finally be rid of them.

32 Responses to “Shaming Live Universe into paying what they owe you actually works!”

  1. Scott Says:

    Congratulations!

  2. Savvy Veteran Says:

    Hooray! I must say, you’re a better man than I. I probably would have caved immediately in order to get the money.

  3. Karen Says:

    Congratulations, Eric! I commend you. You don’t need to take that baloney. I love to hear stories of people standing up for themselves!

  4. Jonathon Says:

    Right on, Eric!

  5. BGW Says:

    Is it just me or did anyone else envision him doing a lively little Snoopy dance at the end of this column?

  6. Christina D Says:

    Awesome! I’m so proud of you. Hehe

  7. Notaturkeybone Says:

    Stories like this bring a tear to my eye. *sniff*

  8. mommy Says:

    yay!!! Good for you! I’m glad we get to hear the whole story…amazing that they would assume you would sign it…

  9. Ben C. Says:

    You should let someone else pick up the http://www.live-universe-owes-me-money URL and continue on with the site until everyone updates their entries that they’ve been paid too. It’s not your fault someone else buys it and puts the site back up, right?

  10. peptidefarmer Says:

    Someday they will make a movie about this, and Julia Roberts will play you.

  11. AdamOndi Says:

    Bravo! I am glad you (#1) knew and had proof that you were totally in the right, (#2) stood up for yourself and called BS when they were shoveling it your way, and (#3) got what you were owed.

    It’s too bad there were no allowances in the original agreement for you to charge late fees, interest, or other penalties for their temporary breach of contract.

  12. Jason Wright Says:

    You should cover that domain name in ads now just to make you some more money while you own the domain name.

  13. Turkey Says:

    Awesome! Congratulations and good on ya for seeing weasling like that and calling them on the carpet for it.

  14. Jacob Says:

    So who runs your ads now, if you’ve quit with LU?

  15. Lane Says:

    You gave a dishonest company direct access to your bank account?

  16. Rob D. Says:

    This is great news! I also stand on principle and wouldn’t have caved either. That being said, a lot of people would have just taken the money so you have a lot to be proud of. LOL at not being allowed to tell us that you weren’t allowed to criticize them anymore. What would you have done if we randomly asked you how things were going with this in a blog post………I guess you would have had to ignore us which isn’t your style. Someone here would have figured out you were blackmailed though.

  17. Neil Says:

    I too, would like to know the fate of the site and the many others that posted their stories.

    Ceasing contributions and hosting of the site would be appropriate (especially as the claim would no longer be true), but making the domain/site/etc available (for free or sale is up to you) to another one of the burned customers would be, in my view, fair.

  18. Chris Says:

    Excuse me, Eric, but there are way more than six $100 bills in that picture. Where are you getting all the extra money from, huh? Are you now stealing from Live Universe, just to get back at them?

  19. Joshua Says:

    @Chris:

    He must have used five hundred dollars to purchase a high quality photo copier.

  20. Laylabean Says:

    Wow Eric, you’re my hero. I’ve been trying to get more than $2500 from a client for almost nine months now. Too bad he’s not a large company that would quake at a public shaming.

  21. Mike Olbinski Says:

    Eric, could you email me about this? I ran a site called PopCritics.com and tried very, very hard to get my money and could never do it.

    I’d like to know who you spoke to and how I can contact them to get this resolved.

    Thanks man, and nice job!

  22. seespot Says:

    I love happy endings that also involve a public shaming!

  23. Clumpy Says:

    Thanks for not getting sheepish and turning back on some of your well-deserved vivisection of LiveUniverse. Too many people do that and too many companies are used to buying them off.

  24. Scooter Says:

    Awesome. If I had a penny for every email I got from LiveNation I could have wired you the $600 years ago. Perhaps they were too busy on their crusade to spam the entire known universe to get to your account payable issue. Good for you for taking them to the mat!

  25. paul perkims Says:

    do you have a phone number or a email so i can email them as well they own me about 750 thanks for you time.

  26. Daedalus Says:

    Good thing you got your cash, but this story brings out painfully clear LU is deliberately not paying their users. Employees probably get paid, because LU has to, otherwise they’ll all leave for another job. Users can’t do that so easily. Take Revver for example, people put up their videos already, got paid in the past, and don’t want to go and re-upload their stuff elsewhere, where they surely won’t get paid, lose part of their audience, lose their comments, break all embedded players scattered around the net. At least it’s easier to change Peerflix ads.
    So apparently, this is LU’s strategy. And I hope I’m wrong, let LU prove that by simply start paying its users right about… *now*. But I think what they do is this; buy up these sites that pay users for showing ads. That costs a few million, maybe. They keep all user payments on hold. It will take a while before people start complaining. Send out some reports there were payment problems. Keep the people quiet for another month or two or three. Meanwhile keep earning from the ads. People will complain more and more, but those complaints are of course directly forwarded to /dev/null. Eventually, users will get so mad, they leave the site, the site gets shut down. By that time, LU has earned back the money they paid for the site in the first place, and some more probably. LU goes on to leech off of another site with unsuspecting users and so the whole Cycle Of Death continues.
    They don’t care about the users. Most of them will think “oh, duck them” and move on. Occasionally, someone like Eric comes along. They pay up and that’s that, business as usual continues. LU knows full well they can’t get away with it if anybody’d sue them, shows the example above, quickly giving in and paying one flea and keep on scamming the others.
    Though I hope I’m wrong, really. So LU, if you’re reading this, you don’t owe me personally any money right now, but a lot of people out there are waiting for months now. If I’m wrong and you’re not deliberately not paying these people, then show it. Start paying now. Other companies out there paid me within a week, some even pay within hours. There’s no reason at all you need months for it.

  27. TJ Says:

    Congrats! I’m really hoping they pay up for the Revver people. The amount is up there and it would be nice to get it finally. Glad you stood your ground and were smart enough to tell them to piss off. You did the right thing.

  28. Bzero Says:

    Excellent, excellent job.

  29. DK Says:

    Eric
    Do you have any phone numbers for Live Universe that actually work? We have a court order and still cannot get them to respond to our registered mail demanding payment. If they are alive, they are showing no signs of breathing….
    DK

  30. stevejust Says:

    I’m trying to help a client collect a default judgment against LiveUniverse as we speak. I’ve contacted the attorneys in Illinois who represent them there, but I can’t find them since they closed down the the office at 9255 Sunset Blvd. Any help at this point would be appreciated. Either their new office space, or the address for Brad Greenspan… even their attorneys’ contact info would be helpful at this point.
    Stephen.t.Blackburn at gmail

  31. nfirm Says:

    If someone could provide any contact (working email or physical mailing address) would be great.

  32. Defender Says:

    Yeah I used to work for these guys. Really dishonest company that’s for sure. They tried to get me to sign a non compete agreement that basically stated I couldn’t work in entertainment if I decided to quit. Hello! That’s illegal! The whole place was a madhouse and nothing every really got done. So much in fact that the VP of production asked us to lie to corporate about what we were actually doing all day long! Hows that for dishonesty? We had access to all of this equipment and no one would take any initiative to actually go out and shoot stuff. Everything was so embroiled in red tape nothing got done, so basically we all got paid to sit on our asses. Oh and then their was the studio manager who spent a full day writing up a document regarding smoking cigarettes at work. And of course how could I forget how one long time employee said to me” Here at Livevideo, we do things in a round about way” Yep you sure do.

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