Why You Should Worry About Facebook’s New Terms of Service

In a sign that they may finally have come up with some ideas about how to make money, the nice folks with the unlikely names at Twitter have changed their terms of service.  Forthwith:

Now that we know more about how Twitter is being used, we’ve made changes to our Terms of Service—these are the basic rules that go along with using Twitter. The revisions more appropriately reflect the nature of Twitter and convey key issues such as ownership. For example, your tweets belong to you, not to Twitter. With these revisions, we expect some discussion so here are a few highlights from the updated page.

Advertising—In the Terms, we leave the door open for advertising. We’d like to keep our options open as we’ve said before.
Ownership—Twitter is allowed to “use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute” your tweets because that’s what we do. However, they are your tweets and they belong to you.
APIs—The apps that have grown around the Twitter platform are flourishing and adding value to the ecosystem. You authorize us to make content available via our APIs. We’re also working on guidelines for use of the API.
SPAM—Abusive behavior and spam is also outlined in these terms according to the rules we’ve been operating under for some time.

It seems to me that there are a couple of problematic things in the Ownership section.  “Adapt” and “modify” suggest that the Twitter folks are saying they have the right to alter a Tweeter’s words, and thus the meaning, of a tweet.  I doubt if they have evil intentions, but it is very easy to make something say the exact opposite of what you intended.  As a matter of reputation management, that should concern those of us who use the service.

The second concern is more pedestrian but important.  By asserting the right to “publish” your work, there is the implication that they have the right to publish your stuff not just on Twitter but anywhere.  Suppose, however, they wanted to produce a book called the 1,000 Stupidest Tweets Ever or some other commercial reproduction of your tweets?  The implication is that they have the right to do that without compensation.  
That strikes me as wrong.  We’re an aggregator site and we get an incredible amount of excellent content flowing through that could potentially be shaped into commercial products but we wouldn’t dream of doing so without getting specific permission from the bloggers and paying a small, but fair, fee.
Just a couple of things to think about.


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