Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Power of Collective Cooperation: The AOL Case

After AOL changed its Term of Service (ToS) by including a highly privacy abusing statement:


"Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, 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. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

[I highlighted this for emphasizing. The boldface didn't exist in the original ToS]...

Right after that, a lot of people who involve in some kind of online activities, like blogging and discussion, started talking about this like crazy. We see a lot of blog articles, a lot of online discussion, notably the Your Right Online section of Slashdot had a lively discussion twice (here, and here). Also a lot of well-known weblogs.

Finally, AOL had just revised its ToS once again and remove that abusive statement. Now the new ToS reads:

”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.”

Also notice that the new ToS clearly state that it only apply to the public area (once again, I highlighted that myself).

This is another proof, another example, of what a collective & cooperative behavior can do, even in the online world. You do what is good for yourself and effectively good for the group. It doens't matter how you as an individual think about this, if your action is in the same as the other, it can be formed into a collective behavior that can change something globally like this.