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Whose Space? Their Space!

Wayne lent me Spin magazine's August 2006 issue so that i could read an article about MySpace. It doesn't seem to be available online yet, but it's all about me being a chump:

But recent changes to the terms of service that all MySpace users agree to upon creating an account have left some wondering if they're giving away more than they intended. The revised user agreement, which quietly went into effect in May, stated at press time that MySpace has a "nonexclusive, fully paid, and royalty-free worldwide license... to use, copy, modify, adapty, translate, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute" any content uploaded to the site.

All those verbs mean that if you put your material on the site, it can now be used by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the company that owns MySpace. With such open-ended phrasing, MySpace could argue that it has the power to license music and art for, say, movies or MySpace advertisements without paying you.

Just as an aside, is anything not a part of Rupert Murdoch's evil empire?

The article then talks a little about protest rock singer Billy Bragg, who has taken his songs off MySpace because of this.

Jane Ginsburg, a Columbia University law professor who specializes in intellectual property issues, suggests that Bragg's concerns may be justified. "I can understand why an author would be reluctant to sing on to this," she says. "I think the interpretation that [MySpace] could use [content] in any way that they want without getting permission, and without compensating the owner, is correct."

MySpace insists that this is not its intention. "This is the problem when lawyers get involved," Jeff Berman, senior VP for public affairs and communications, said in a statement. "MySpace is not seeking a license to do anything other than allow it to be shared in the manner the artist intends." Though plans may be in the works for tweaking the fine print, the wording had not been changed by press time.

Oh yeah. It's all those naughty lawyers' fault, for actually reading the contract. Nevermind that it was MySpace's lawyers who wrote the contract.

So what does this mean for me? I have no delusions that the four songs i've put up on MySpace are fantastic and are going to make anyone gobs of money, so i'll probably just leave them up there out of inertia, but it's still pretty annoying and it ruins the myth of the internet being a magical place where people can share their music without record labels.

By fnord12 | July 25, 2006, 5:21 PM | Music


What would MySpace's #1 Friend 'Tom' say to this?

I think this is rather old news (as is wont to happen with print media ;)). Here's the current relevant bits of the MySpace Terms of Service:

"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. By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content on or through the MySpace Services, you hereby grant to MySpace.com a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on and through the MySpace Services."

So basically when you upload something to myspace you're granting them permission to display it to others, but only through myspace itself.

btw, here's the full ToS:


there's a more detailed explanation of the above quoted clause there.

Is it old news or did Spin's coverage cause enough outrage to get them to change it? At the time of printing, MySpace didn't seem too concerned...

Well, I doubt Spin's coverage had anything to do with it. The time lag for a print magazine generally means you're not getting up to the minute stories. The ToS were changed back in June. When was the August issue of Spin published?

While I can't comment specifically on the impact of the article on myspace's policies, it should be noted that the article was placed in the front/intro section of the magazine which usually seems reserved for quick info/breaking stories in most magazines, so it was probably put together reasonably close to the publication of the magazine (about 2 weeks ago). Plus, while the publication of the article likely had little effect on the change in policy, based purely on timeframe, it is unclear, though likely, how much effect the investigation/threat of exposure of the issue changed the policy. and that's the real benefit of this article.