Quick followup: As promised, AOL has indeed revised its terms of service (TOS) for its AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service. The new agreement is more in line with what AOL’s chief competitors in the online chat space (Microsoft Messenger, Yahoo Instant Messenger, and Skype) have been offering all along.
From my perspective, here’s the new bottom line: AIM’s TOS is now acceptable. However, I still won’t go back to using it, and I recommend that others steer clear as well. I really don’t like that AOL tried to get away with such a major content grab in the first place. They shredded their own reputation, and their defensive and belated response didn’t repair that damage. AOL blew it…
AOL has claimed that the original wording was simply vague, a kind of oversight that they never intended to grab AIM users’ content. Frankly, I doubt that.
In major media corporations, the legalese is never an oversight. Contracts get analyzed to an unbelievable extent, especially where rights issues are concerned. I have too much confidence in the competence of AOL’s high-priced lawyers to believe that they’d be so sloppy.
That’s just my opinion. Take it for what it’s worth. And I fully admit that I could be wrong.
For the record, here’s what the new AIM TOS says…
“Content You Post to Public Areas
“You may only post Content to public areas on AIM Products that you created or which the owner of the Content has given you permission to post. You may not post or distribute Content to public areas on AIM Products that is illegal or that violates these Terms of Service. By posting or submitting Content to public areas of AIM Products, you represent and warrant that (i) you own all the rights to this Content or are authorized to use and distribute this Content to public areas of AIM Products 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.
“You or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to public areas of any AIM Product. However, by submitting or posting Content to public areas of AIM Products (for example, posting a message on a message board or submitting your picture for the “Rate-A-Buddy” feature), 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. Once you submit or post Content to any public area on an AIM Product, AOL does not need to give you any further right to inspect or approve uses of such Content or to compensate you for any such uses. AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating Content posted to public areas of AIM Products.”