MSN Blogs – what’s yours is mine

Catching up on the RSS reader and the furor over MSN Spaces, the new Microsoft blogging service. Most of the noise was about the nifty censorship features, but to my mind, the most offensive bit of the terms of service is the sharecropper’s intellectual property clause.

For materials you post or otherwise provide to Microsoft related to the MSN Web Sites (a “Submission”), you grant Microsoft permission to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, translate and reformat your Submission, each in connection with the MSN Web Sites, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law. Microsoft will not pay you for your Submission.”

Microsoft infers that, because most bloggers don’t make money from their blog content, they therefore don’t mind if you sign your rights over to Microsoft. This is tyrannical record-company contract terms transferred to the long tail.
You start as a blogger, and become a successful novelist, inventor, consultant? Sorry darling. Your ideas already belong to Microsoft. Free is pretty darn expensive.
The censorship features wouldn’t be so bad, if only they could be turned off. I gave a talk a while ago at a conference on community uses of technology. The main audience questions about the use of blogs in schools and community centers were about obscenity, and trying to keep a kid-friendly environment without overwhelmingly time-intensive moderation.
The problem with general-purpose censorship and IP sharecropping is that it keeps out grownups. Who is MSN Spaces trying to appeal to?

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