Yahoo terms of service spark user backlash
Aug 24, 1999 at 04:00:00 GMT
CNET News.Com: Yahoo, faced with a growing boycott of its recently launched, integrated Yahoo-GeoCities, said today it is likely to announce a change in its terms of service, which many users believe gives away rights to their intellectual property.
"We are looking for ways to clarify those terms of service to better represent our intentions," said Yahoo executive producer Tim Brady. "We will hopefully get something up pretty quickly.
"ASAP. If not today, then tomorrow," Brady added.
Previous GeoCities users are flocking to the Boycottyahoo site, hoping the pressure will persuade Yahoo to withdraw or change the terms of service that users must agree to before they can edit or update their Yahoo-GeoCities Web pages.
The term in question gives Yahoo "the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display such content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed."
The Boycottyahoo site urges users to stop using Yahoo to show the company that there is "a large, diverse Internet outside" the Yahoo network, which includes Broadcast.com.
"Don't buy products from merchants at 'shopping.Yahoo.com,' and let them know why," a message on the site reads.
Yahoo acquired GeoCities for an estimated $5 billion in January, looking to shore up its community offerings. The portal said at the time that it plans to integrate e-commerce throughout GeoCities as well as direct-market to home page builders. Yahoo completed the acquisition of GeoCities at the end of May.
Users are up in arms because they fear that under the new terms of service, Yahoo may turn their posted material into movies or other electronic forms of entertainment to which they would have no rights.
"We have heard [the protesters]," Brady said, adding that the email messages to Yahoo have been extremely vocal and passionate. "We always have and will always continue to listen to our users."
The concerns could be valid given Yahoo's acquisition of video streaming firm Broadcast.com and the growing collaboration between Internet companies and traditional media firms.
Some intellectual property attorneys have suggested that users not reregister, blocking Yahoo from having rights to their material.
"There is a real fear, because that type of clause would give extensive rights to Yahoo in this case," said Francoise Gilbert, an intellectual property rights attorney at law firm Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich.
Those terms, however, are not specific to Yahoo alone. Xoom.com and Lycos's Tripod are among those that have terms worded nearly identically.
"Being that GeoCities is the biggest, we are probably under the microscope," while the other sites are not, Brady said.
Several other community sites, including Crosswinds and HobbyHost, don't ask for the terms in question.
"Ever since the release about [Yahoo-GeoCities] owning the material, Crosswinds has seen a 40 percent jump in new members per day, up to about 1,200 now," Crosswinds president Scott Holmes wrote in an email to CNET News.com.
And at the top of HobbyHost's Web page is a message clearly stating that the company "does not and will not ever claim the rights to your hard work as other WebHosts are doing in their Terms of Service contracts."
Yahoo said that they believe the boycott is a result of a lack of clarification on the company's part.
"Our intentions were to remain true to what GeoCities' intentions were," Brady said.