Sunday, March 13, 2005

"And you won't even get kissed..." AIM terms of service

I use a few Instant Messenger programs. For the most part, unless it's my own server I assume that the hosting company is doing something mildly nefarious with whatever gets sent. But I don't worry about it. The Terms of Service usually aren't too bad. AOL's latest addition to their TOS has gone completely around the bend. Go a little less than halfway down the page for the kicker:

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.

Think about that for a moment. You still technically own your content, but by sending it via AIM you have irrevocably given up all rights to it and any hope of privacy. There are alternatives. Yahoo and MSN's agreements are models of reasonableness and restraint, at least in comparison. The Jabber protocols are open, flexible and proven. There are even installations running free Jabber servers. Big names like Boeing and the US Joint Forces Command use the commercial version of the software.

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