Never trust a hippy - John Lydon
The latest attempt to rebrand the web, "Web 2.0" has been evangelized as a platform for sharing - but it's increasingly looking like a platform tilted steeply in one direction.
Millions may be about to discover what singer Billy Bragg found out recently - that "community" hosting web sites can do as they please with creative material you submit.
In its Terms & Conditions, the wildly popular video sharing site YouTube emphasizes that "you retain all of your ownership rights in your User Submissions".
There's quite a large "BUT...", however. Not only does YouTube retain the right to create derivative works, but so do the users, and so too, does YouTube's successor company. Since YouTube has all the hallmarks of a very shortlived business - it's burned through $11.5m of venture investment (Sequoia Capital is the fall guy here) and has no revenue channels - this is more pertinent than may appear.
The license that you grant YouTube is worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable. The simplest way to terminate it is by withdrawing your video. But even this is problematic, as OpenTV's Nathan Freitas wrote recently:
"It is good to know that if you delete a video from YouTube, then the rights you have granted them terminate. However, once they have distributed your video 'in any media format and through any media channel', that’s a little hard to take back, right?"
And if YouTube went titsup tomorrow, its successor YouTubeTwo would sit on a large library of irrevocable content.
For now, as Nathan noticed, YouTube regards its rights grab as something of a joke:
As we've noted with this wave of web juvenilia, it's considered "Web 2.0" to take things like rights, and uptime flippantly. See Flakey Flickr goes down. Again.
Judging from a handful of sporadic blog posts, the issue has been troubling a few users for a while. But with the mainstream press still treating the handful of web hopefuls as if they represent the new Enlightenment, it has failed to catch much wider attention. ®