Who Owns What?
If you haven't already heard, Geocities recently merged with Yahoo. I use to consider
Yahoo to be one of the more respectable companies on the Internet. This was mainly due
to their big old Yahoo Directory Page at www.yahoo.com. One of the few "human"
operated directories left on the web.
However, that all changed yesterday when I learned of the new Terms of Service "Yahoo! Geocities"
is requiring it's users to follow. There are various problems some people
have with the new terms of service. Some are worried about the age restriction, which says
you must be 18 to own a site on Yahoo. I said in an earlier version
of this article, I wasn't to concerned about this. Many free
providers have had age limits for a long time. What I didn't realize, most hosts require you be 13 or over, but Yahoo
has now raised it to 18! Why would they raise it to 18 from 13? I don't know. Yahoo still doesn't allow adult/offensive content,
so why 18? Seems like Yahoo just doesn't want to
deal with teenagers anymore.
The biggest problem though is with Term Number Eight of the new Contract. It originally stated (June 28th):
"By submitting Content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such Content has expressly granted, Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed. You acknowledge that Yahoo does not pre-screen Content, but that Yahoo and its designees shall have the right (but not the obligation) in their sole discretion to refuse, edit, move or remove any Content that is publicly available via the Service."
This basically it says Yahoo owns your webpage once you upload it and has the right to
keep what you had on your site. Even if you decide to delete your files or move them elsewhere.
I was pretty shocked they would try to pull this, but after reading it about four times I
guessed what they meant to say "We just want the right to link your site so we can use
it in Geocities promotions". For example, the Geocities featured sites. Despite coming to
that conclusion, the wording of the term was still too suspect for my liking. Many others
also felt this way. In the last day or so a few boycott groups have popped up and several
Geocities Homesteaders (Gee I hate that term) are "getting the hell out of Dodge"
and moving their sites to either Tripod, Xoom or somewhere else.
Yahoo quickly noticed the backlash and updated "Term Number Eight" today (July 1st):
"Yahoo does not own Content you submit, unless we specifically tell you otherwise before you submit it. You license the Content to Yahoo as set forth below for the purpose of displaying and distributing such Content on our network of properties and for the promotion and marketing of our services. By submitting Content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such Content has expressly granted, Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed."
A bit of an improvement. There are still some picky points in there, but after reading a
few articles at Wired.com (see the listing of articles below), legal experts say Yahoo has limited
itself to only using websites for promotion and so on. They can not take your material and publish
another website or even a book and claim it as their own. They can only use it for ads. (feww)
However, this raises interesting point. Legal experts? Lawyers? This is only the web,
a free-web service at that. Why the heck are Terms of
Service Contracts filled with such long details and big words? Most people are only doing this
for a hobby! Sure companies have to cover their tracks in case of certain legal situations,
but how about a simple version of these Terms of Services? We're not putting a mortgage
on a house here, we are signing up for free webspace! Keep the long legal mumbo-jumbo versions, and
have them available, but hosts should start offering a simplified version too. When it comes
right down to it, this whole problem seems to have been caused by a lawyer screw-up.
They wrote one thing, while they meant it to be taken much differently. The moral should be,
the average person will interpret things a lot different than a Contract
Lawyer who knows all the in and outs of these things.
As for those people who don't like mergers at all, get used to them. With
the introduction of "Portals" just under a year ago, more and more companies are
merging or buying so they can offer more services through their Portals.
Yahoo bought Rocketmail, Microsoft bought Hotmail and Lycos bought Tripod.
How long will it be till Microsoft buys a free-web provider for MSN-Hotmail? After this
Yahoo/Geocitites deal my money is on not very long.
Oh one more piece of advice. If you are on Yahoo/Geocities and want to move your site
I would suggest checking out: http://www.freewebspace.net/reviews/. They have reviews on
free webspace providers that will help you find the best new home to suit your page.
July 2nd, 1999
As usual any comment made on this page is that of "The Amazoness
Quartet" or one of its members. Tripod has nothing to do with our opinions,