The Haus

Monday, March 14, 2005

AIM Update

AOL has commented on the furor raised over the AIM TOS changes made last week. You can see the follow-up on eWEEK. America Online spokesman Andrew Weinstein had the following to say:

Such language is standard in almost all similar user agreements, including those from Microsoft and most online news publications. That clause simply lets the user know that content they post in a public area can be seen by other users and can be used by the owner of the site for other purposes . . . AIM user-to-user communication has been and will remain private"

While this makes me feel a lot better about the whole situation, it disturbs me that this type of language is becoming acceptable at a large ISP. What this seems to state is that anything you post into a "public" location on AOL does not have copyright protections from AOL or any AOL affiliate. If you write a utility, copyright it, and put it up on a website hosted by AOL, then AOL can repackage your program and sell it themselves (a "derivative work") and there's nothing you can do about it. I hope I'm wrong on this assumption.

A.T. Hun comments: While they may offer that as an explanation for the EULA, that is certainly not what it says. What Qbe said yesterday is true. Assume that everybody and their monkey can read anything that you post online or send via email or IM.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

AIM 0wnz0r5 U

Check this out (quoted from the new AOL AIM TOS):

Content You Post

You may only post Content that you created or which the owner of the Content has given you. You may not post or distribute Content that is illegal or that violates these Terms of Service. By posting or submitting Content on any AIM Product, you represent and warrant that (i) you own all the rights to this Content or are authorized to use and distribute this Content on the AIM Product and (ii) this Content does not and will not infringe any copyright or any other third-party right nor violate any applicable law or regulation.

Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

That's right. Anything you post via the AOL Instant Messenger can be used by AOL (or anyone affiliated with AOL in any way) for any purpose whatsoever, without your previous approval or consent. They own you. Deal with it. Guess they really want people to switch to a different IM client. Right now ICQ does not claim this draconian level of right over your use of their service.

J.t.Qbe comments: They own the servers, they own the software, they own the bandwidth. Claiming ownership of what's done with their resources is standard legal maneuvering. A few years ago many people wet themselves because Microsoft made the same claims about Hotmail. Has anything changed, or have users simply learned to shut up and live with it?

The Master comments: That's fine, but then that same claim can be applied to user's home pages, any any content they might generate online, since we're all hosted by someone. My concern is the fact that AOL is basically saying that ANYTHING you do via their service is theirs, and that AOL or anyone who is affiliated with AOL can do whatever they want with anything you do on AIM. If that precedent stands, then people are going to have a very difficult time doing anything online with any service. What if they start posting chat logs online? What if they steal an invention that you are reviewing with someone via AIM? By this TOS you can't do anything about it. It makes their claim that you "own" the content pretty useless--at least against AOL.

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