Thrashing Through Cyberspace picks up on a stunning change in AOL’s terms of service for its Instant Messenger:
"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."
Imagine if FedEx or the US Post Office tried such a gambit.
I wonder if such boilerplate EULA can assign Copyrights (a Federal property right) without a genuine meeting of the minds . . . Any legal geniuses out there, please weigh in.
Will any firm that produces written content be able to continue using AOL IM anymore? I have to seriously doubt it.
UPDATE: March 15, 2005 6:26am
AOL made a minor attempt to "quell the furor" by claiming in eWeek by "insisting the controversial privacy clause does not pertain to user-to-user instant messaging communication." In part, AOL states this is because the offending material is under the heading "Content You Post."
That’s somewhat ambiguous. If AOL really wants to resolve this, all they need do is add this paragraph:
"All AIM instant messages are private, and AOL does not monitor or filter instant messages. Any instant message communication betweem registered users remains the copyrighted material of those users."
Simply, easy, direct.
AOL: AIM Conversations Are Safe
By Ryan Naraine
eWeek, March 14, 2005