Billy Bragg has paid tribute to social networking giant MySpace after persuading it to change its terms and conditions. The site is owned by owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and changed its terms after lobbying by Bragg.
"With respect to the guys at MySpace I have to accept that within a week of me writing a letter to Music Week they had complied with my suggestion to change their terms and conditions, so more power to them, I respect that," Bragg told OUT-LAW. "I think MySpace acted in the spirit of the internet."
Bragg has been campaigning for MySpace to change its terms and conditions, which seemed to give rights to music posted there to the Murdoch-backed company. Late last week the site did change its rules to reflect Bragg's wishes.
The new terms and conditions make it clear that the company renounces all ownership rights to musicians' material. Previously, the rules had seemed to assert the company's control over material posted there, though the company claimed that that view was a misinterpretation of the rules.
Bragg had taken down his music from the site when he realised what the terms actually meant. "Sorry there's no music," his MySpace site read until now, "once an artist posts up any content (including songs), it then belongs to My Space (AKA Rupert Murdoch) and they can do what they want with it, throughout the world without paying the artist."
Previously, the rules said that a user would "hereby grant to MySpace.com a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute such Content on and through the Services."
The new conditions read: "MySpace.com does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, 'Content') that you post to the MySpace Services. After posting your Content to the MySpace Services, you continue to retain all ownership rights in such Content, and you continue to have the right to use your Content in any way you choose."
"I think the thing I'm most delighted about is that the principle of the right of the producer of the material to ownership and the right to exploit their material seems to have been established on the largest internet community site of them all, which is MySpace, and that's really what I was most importantly trying to do," Bragg said in an interview.
Bragg is as famous for his left wing politics as for his music, which includes "New England", a hit for Kirsty MacColl. He helped found left-wing pop pressure group Red Wedge in the 1980s and performed widely at benefits for striking miners.
"I want this to be an industry standard now," said Bragg. "There is a danger when corporations try to work out how to make money out of the internet. That is a danger, isn't it? The last thing we want is for people posting on their sites to have to have a lawyer sitting beside them."
The new terms and conditions state that posting material automatically grants MySpace a limited licence to use and modify the content, but says that this is purely a technical issue. "Without this licence, MySpace.com would be unable to provide the MySpace services," said the terms.
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