There's an interesting discussion going on at Slashdot about the terms of service published by AOL.
The terms are quite comprehensive, and essentially give AOL the right to use, without compensation, anything published on their service or transmitted through their instant messaging tool. AOL insists people are deliberately misinterpreting their legalese, and they don't save any instant messages that flow through their system. The key issue seems to be whether the agreement would allow them to legally store and use information from instant messages if they chose to do so.
Privacy purists have been freaking out over the sweeping ownership of content that AOL seems to give themselves with this legal agreement. One person's interpretation of the agreemen (one of 292 comments on the item)t:
AOL can use copyrighted material w/o compensation (Score:5, Interesting)
by solprovider (628033) on Monday March 14, @10:28AM (#11932409)
(http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=lose) What does AOL being a giant multi-billion dollar company have to do with this?
Mr. Aspiring Songwriter writes a song, and asks some friends for their opinions. He sends the lyrics and an MP3 to friends using his AOL email and/or AIM. The song becomes big a year later. AOL searches their records, and finds he used the AOL network to transfer the work. According to this license, AOL may now:
- publish the song on the internet,
- include the song on CD,
- use the song in a movie,
- use the song in advertisements, and
- have their current boyband record it
without ever giving any compensation to the Mr. A.S.
Mr. Writer works on his book or movie script. He sends each chapter to his agent from his AOL email. AOL can use his work without compensation.
Mr. Small Business writes software. His team uses AIM to discuss the code being developed. AOL may use any of the code transferred on their network for any purpose without compensation.
Mrs. Sporting Goods owns a small store. It does not have an e-commerce website; her AOL email address is enough for the few online orders. One of her customers becomes famous. AOL may publish information about the athlete's purchases and any concerns discussed in her emails. (They may have difficulty justifying the use of the athlete's emails, unless the athlete also used AOL software.)
If this license was used by a small private business, the materials collected could soon become the most valuable resource of the business. AOL is already part of a major media conglomerate, and the threat of using all meterials transferred on their network without compensation is real. AOL's music and movie divisions should be drooling over the ability to find free resources.