get what you pay for

Everyone is apparently up in arms because Myspace is “censoring” what sites users can link to from their Myspace pages. For example, any reference to the video sharing site will be removed. Several other small to medium sized content sharing companies also appear to be affected (Project Playlist, VideoCodeZone, Stickam, etc.). You may be asking yourself, “Why don’t people just host their videos using Myspace’s own video functionality?” Apparently, people seem to think that posting their content in this manner makes it the property of Myspace (and subsequently FOX). Well, if they could just stop bitching for five minutes and read Myspace’s user agreement (probably for the first time), they would see this: 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 a limited license to use, modify, publicly perform, publicly display, reproduce, and distribute such Content solely on and through the MySpace Services.

Without this license, would be unable to provide the MySpace Services. For example, without the right to modify Member Content, would not be able to digitally compress music files that Members submit or otherwise format Content to satisfy technical requirements, and without the right to publicly perform Member Content, could not allow Users to listen to music posted by Members. The license you grant to is non-exclusive (meaning you are free to license your Content to anyone else in addition to, fully-paid and royalty-free (meaning that is not required to pay you for the use on the MySpace Services of the Content that you post), sublicensable (so that is able to use its affiliates and subcontractors such as Internet content delivery networks to provide the MySpace Services), and worldwide (because the Internet and the MySpace Services are global in reach). This license will terminate at the time you remove your Content from the MySpace Services. The license does not grant the right to sell your Content, nor does the license grant the right to distribute your Content outside of the MySpace Services.

Owned…straight from the mouth of the beast. Still, using a 3rd party sharing service to post content to Myspace can allow you to make some money off of your work. If you’ve checked out the above Revver link by now, you know how their service works. They pair your video with a targeted advertisement and then split the ad revenues with you 50/50 based on how many times your video is viewed anywhere on the internet (including Myspace). Once again, I’ll let the Myspace user agreement speak for itself:

Prohibited activity includes, but is not limited to:

…displaying an advertisement on your profile, or accepting payment or anything of value from a third person in exchange for your performing any commercial activity on or through the MySpace Services on behalf of that person, such as placing commercial content on your profile, posting blogs or bulletins with a commercial purpose, selecting a profile with a commercial purpose as one of your "Top 8" friends, or sending private messages with a commercial purpose…

There you have it. By using Myspace, you are agreeing not to post third party (Revver) advertising content for commercial gain. Still, one could argue that these policies go against the original open-ended spirit of Myspace. Unfortunately, Myspace is a business. So, unless whiny Myspace users want to start paying for what is currently a free service (heaven forbid!), Myspace must support itself with advertisements. Obviously, nobody would be willing to pay for this advertising space if they could simply upload their ad to a few thousand Myspace pages for free.

Some people have even made this debate out to be a microcosm of net neutrality. Here’s why that’s a stupid comparison. If you don’t like Myspace, use a different service, or make your own website. You can’t stop using the internet in favor of a competing world-wide network. Myspace is free, and, in its case, you get what you pay for.

Despite my apparent support of their policies, I still hate Myspace. I’ve never had a Myspace page because of control issues exactly like this. Even though I’ve shown that the user agreement doesn’t support any of the claims floating around the internet, it also clearly states that it can be changed at any time without notice, so you should “review this agreement regularly” to stay up to date on what they can and can’t do with your content and personal information. So basically, if they decided to sell all your info to someone, you wouldn’t even get a memo.

So, here’s an idea. Instead of bitching about a free service that you are choosing to use, just stop using Myspace. An ad based business won’t last long without people to view the ads.