Who owns my content?

There are reasons that I use WordPress on my own server to publish this blog. I keep running into interesting web sites that I would like to sign up with, but two items in the privacy policies chase me right away:

“This privacy policy can be changed at any time without prior notice” is the equivalent of shrink-wrap software that reads, on the box:

“By opening this package you agree to the terms explained inside”.

What kind of world do we live in that allows this type of thing? Why is it so widespread? I’ve found that I have to accept this rider fairly often, or avoid web sites that are key pieces of my online toolset, like Yahoo! and Google.

But the one I’ll reject every time is the one that says, basically:

“Any content that you put on this site becomes the property of the web site, to use in any manner that we see fit.”

Two web sites that really intrigued me, but asked me to accept this ridiculous term, were rojo and rsscontacts. The privacy policy for the latter is here:

http://www.rsscontact.com/rss2/public/terms_of_use2.asp

Now, I might be nit-picking here (It’s happened before). Rojo is primarily a news aggregator. Rsscontacts is a contact manager. They aren’t places where I’d be submitting copyrightable work, most likely. They probably borrowed the language for their policies from standard sources. But the disclaimer really concerns me because it opens the door to abuse. The mix of blogs and news sources that I aggregate reveal alot about me and my interests — great information for marketers. And the contacts I keep not only speak to my interests, they allow marketers to identify communities with similar interests.

Since my view of the web is, very simply, that the things that make it great are also the things that are tearing it apart — networking creates the environment that worms and viruses spread in. We have to pick and choose how much abuse we’re going to open the door to.

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