I know that 2006 is the year of “User-Contributed Content” but it has come to my attention that we all need to hire our own personal laywers before we submit anything to any website. Ok, if not lawyers, we at least need a watchdog group… failing that, a bunch of know-it-all bloggers should suffice.

When someone announces a new video hosting service in the Yahoo! Videoblogging Group, the first thing someone does is checks the Term of Service to see if it looks good, and by ‘good’ we’re referring to maintaining the rights of the creator. You may be surprised by how many sites that accept user contributions have these little bits about how they own the content you’ve submitted and all rights to sell it to others throughout the galaxy until the end of eternity. Ok, it’s not quite that bad, but it can get a little weird.

The sad thing is, most of these are either written by lawyers who have no idea how the web works, or were just copied from another site, and only the names have been changed. 98% of the users never read these things, it’s the 2% that do and make a fuss about it that you have to thank. And the thing is, if you alert the folks in charge of the weirdness, they’ll often try to accomodate you in some way. Well, that’s what I’ve seen happen so far…

JD Lasica has a nice post about this, with my favorite part being where he cites Ourmedia’s Terms of Service:

You own your own material. Ourmedia claims no intellectual property rights over the material you provide to our service.

Now, Ourmedia is pretty enlightened, and they let you choose the license you want to release your work under (though the seem to favor Creative Commons, as that jives with the whole idea behind Ourmedia) but the blip.tv Terms of Service are also pretty good with words like “…you own or otherwise control all of the rights to your content…” That, coupled with the fact that they’ve had open dialog with the community about the “who owns what rights” issues makes me feel pretty good about them.

So folks, before you sign up with any site that will be using content you provide, check the terms. There are ways around some of the terms as well, which we’ll get into next time. I’m pretty sure we won’t even need to break the law to do so.

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