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Yahoo/Geocities IP Trouble 221

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-is-gonna-be-messy dept.
Doug Muth writes "There's an article in Wired about Yahoo taking over Geocities and how they now claim to own the intellectual rights to all webpages that users have on there. That's scary, since under this contract, anyone who has a page on Geocities no longer has the rights to what they have created. "
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Yahoo/Geocities IP Trouble

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    What I love is the now standard disclaimer that the terms of the notice/contract/disclaimer may change without prior notice and without your consent. Given that a lawyer can write anything down and enforce that writing with money (expensive lawsuit, etc.), this means they could change the notice to read that they in fact do own your content, which you are hereby responsible for, and that you may not reproduce it elsewhere. Complain? Complain to a lawsuit!!

    We'd be much better off if we banned lawyers from using computers.

  • I do not dispute that the new agreement is unacceptable and odious, but I don't think it is motiviated by malice. It may well be underlayed with laziness though.

    Their lawyers's aren't stupid and they almost certainly saying a lot of what they should have said in order to come up with an enforcable agreement. The more clauses they insterted the greater their vulnerability in the courts.

    Unfortunately, their management should have realized that such a conservative approach wouldn't cut it. They have risked alienating their contributors instead of taking a risk in a lawsuit. Their business would probably be better off if they tried the latter. This frontier of copyright law needs homesteaders!
  • Been there, done that. All my stuff is gone, and nothing remains but a greyout page (available from the Boycott Yahoo Home Page).

    http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Station/4 092/

    I can't believe the nerve of those jerks. I used to have a great deal of respect for them, but that sure has ended abruptly!

    I also emailed Yahoo with my complaint.
  • If it sounds too good to be true... Free... We're here for you... Go ahead and create and post without those annoying monthly bills. We get what we pay for and we pay for what we get. Thank you for listening to my diatribe.
  • I've written some articles / FAQs that I have published on my Geocities website, each with a Copyright (year) by (me) note. Apart from this, only GPL'd code, my HTML code and a few images without copyright infringements are there, nothing to worry about.

    My questions:

    1) What can they do with my writings, can they sell them?

    2) Where can I get a free account with about 2 megs of space that does not have any restrictions?
  • NOT doubtful, totally true. You can't give anyone unlimited sublicensible rights to GPL'd software, unless you hold the copyright on 100 percent of its code. So, agreeing to the Yahoo agreement and posting GPL'd code on their servers would violate the GPL in most cases. The exception would be if you had written all of the code, in which case it would be legal, but Yahoo could also sell your work as proprietary while you were distributing it as GPL.

    It is also true that you wouldn't be able to post another person's copyrighted material on their servers unless you had the same perpetual sublicensable modification and distribution rights as Yahoo is asking for (same issue, really.. because GPL only allows sublicensing under the terms of the GPL, which are more restrictive than Yahoo's agreement)
  • Let's be practical about the terms in that disclaimer. "Prior notice" usually means a letter to a registered mailing address, possibly a certified letter if the sender needs proof that the letter was actually delivered. You might be able to contractually specify that "notice" can be sent via e-mail, but what do you do with bounced messages?

    "Prior consent" is even worse - it means, at the least, that the person sends back a postcard indicating aggrement. Even if nobody gave you a false address, what do you do with people who don't respond? Or who disagree, since this isn't a situation where a quorum decides the issue for everyone?

    The only practical solution is to use this clause and honor a extra-legal period where customers can yank their pages if the new terms aren't acceptable. If you don't like the terms, yank your pages *today*. If your pages are still up in two weeks, they can reasonably assume that you do agree to the new terms.

    It's not perfect, but it seems better than the alternatives.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    What you put on the web is a picture of your brain. Do you really want that picture to be a pretty dog?

    First of all, who says that the web has to be a picture of anybodies brain? It can be more than that. It can be pretty dogs as well. I mean -- why not?!!

    Let's all stand up for pretty dogs!

    If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go register prettydog.com now. Bye.
  • HTML? Peice of cake.

    Good HTML? Easy, if you work at it.

    "Design"-ing a website. Gotta work a little at it. Anyone can write HTML, but.. can you make it LOOK good.

    Content? Hard.

    Dynamic Content? Even harder.

    After you learn HTML, learn something like ASP or Cold Fusion or PERL-CGI and give your brain a whirl at dynamic stuff. That's a challenge. I find myself after four months of doing dynamic stuff having a hard time coming up with a static webpage. Once you get into a dynamic mode, your brain seems to be like.. oh, wouldn't it be cool if, etc. Static pages just seem boring after having your eyes opened.

    Nuff said,
    ~Sandman
  • XOOM sucks. they autodelete your site if you dont login for 60 days or something/

    Not true. I deleted my site and asked xoom to delete my account over 3 months ago, but it's still there (just checked).
  • I rooted thru the paragraph in question, and far as I can decipher the legalse, what it boils down to is this: Yahoo owns the content usage FOR THE PURPOSE OF USING IT TO PROMOTE anything they choose to advertise. Not the actual content, but the USE of the content.

    BTW if you use ICQ, be aware they have the right to parse thru your messages and sell your identity to selected advertisers based on your message content.
  • Yahoo now owns 17.9 gigabytes of crappy, angst-filled teenage poetry.

    "Oh, how dark my life is.
    Let's all embrace the Night.
    I wish I were a vampire."

    Lucky bastards.
  • Turn off Javascript, and the popup windows will cease to annoy you. I haven't seen one in months. :)

    Tripod used to have one that wouldn't close until you used one of the links in it to go to their main page. Until I discovered the "no js, no popup" trick, I didn't go to Tripod sites at all.
  • If I'm reading the new Yahoo TOS right (sorry, legalese is not my native tongue) it won't work that way. Person B cannot

    ...warrant that the owner of such Content has expressly granted Yahoo... the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed.

    ...which would seem to mean that, unless you own the copyright, you can't post GPL'd software (or other copyrighted 'freeware') on GeoCities at all...
    --

  • "I find it ironic that people screaming about their IP rights when their sites are chock full of copyrighted images they scanned in, audio files they recorded off of videos and TV, and often buttons and other images they ripped off of other sites"

    I find it insulting that you assume the people screaming about IP rights have been stealing IP themselves. I had a web page on geocities (for over 2 years) with nearly ten meg of drawings, paintings, comics, articles and tutorials, all of which I created myself. (Note I say "had" - I might decide to go back to geocities if they fix up their TOS.)

  • The following is in the "subscription agreement" for my really fast Mediaone cable modem service.

    14.2. You hereby grant MediaOne and ServiceCo. and hereby represent and warrant that You have all necessary rights to so grant, the
    worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate,
    distribute, perform and display all material posted on the public areas of the Road Runner Service via Your account and/or to incorporate
    the same in other works in any form, media or technology whether now known or hereafter developed.

    If I'm reading this straight it means that anything I post to Mediaone's usenet server becomes their property. I'd think this applies to the web space they offer me too. Can anyone comment?
  • Maybe not for IP - I don't know. Real estate, for instance, _is_ a package of rights - that is the definition of ownership. But, the point is moot. If you accept Yahoo's agreement you make a contract and you give them those rights (something of value) in exchange for a web presence (something of value). It's a lousy deal if you value your creations, but certainly not a violation of public policy.
  • Ripping stuff off for use on your own personal website is a far cry different from a company usurping control over their user's content and republishing it for a profit beyond the agreement initially formed.

    When someone gets a geocities account, they know that geocities/yahoo will advertise on their site... that's the obvious deal.. they do not know, that yahoo is going to take their content, and resell it independantly.

    I think yahoo selling a collection of geocities stuff would merit a class action suit.. :-) kind of a strange one though :-)
  • By posting on a now Yahoo web page you now:

    "By submitting Content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such Content has expressly granted, Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed."

    Translation: If it is something you came up with: ie. a new song, and idea for a product, some type of code. Yahoo can do whatever it feels like with it, even if that means loss of income or potential income for you.
    It does not mean that Yahoo is taking responceability for what you do, but it is a clause so that they can pirate anything you put on your web page.
  • I'm outraged by it, and have removed all my stuff from geocities/yahoo. But on your link, you recommend Tripod, which has the same *terms of service* than Yahoo... It's about time we start reading those boring lawyers' mumbo-jumbo..

    And I'm wondering what happens to guys who save their Open Source, Free Software and stuff there...

    My 0.02
  • This is not accurate at all. I went to Geocities to remove my site, and I cannot even access it unless I agree to their new usage terms. Do Not Accept these terms. You will no longer have a legal foot to stand on.

    I have material on Geocities that has been Copyrighted (got my Library of Congress forms and everything). I am in the process of contacting a lawyer. I will keep the community updated.

    Yahoo can do what they want with their site...just not with my work.
  • Yahoo defends the terms in the contract, saying it's trying to prevent itself from being sued over copyright infringements and wants the ability to promote its service.

    Hrmmmm.....
    Really, what ever happened to saying "We host your content, we make money off of the ads." Claiming the content is theirs to do with as they please is wrong. Their agreement is more likely to CREATE trouble for yahoo, because with a little bit of wordplay you could say Yahoo owns the content to kiddie-porn on such site and warez on another....
    More than anything, I believe what we all should learn from this is that 99% of the lawyers out there are clueless, stupid, selfish people who have no disregard for anyone outside of their client.... Until their client learns that they are screwing over the people that they service.
  • Yep. I don't believe it's possible to state you own all rights, but have no responsibility, to the content of electronic/printed media. Sounds to me like they just opened up their deep pockets to an attack.
  • I don't agree that putting one's web pages on a server used for random stuff is better, and here is why.
    1. I sell Amazon books on my site, and I believe that users are more comfortable clicking through to Amazon from a Geocities URL than they would be from a domain that they had never heard of. In addition, Geocities puts national advertising on the top of my page which also may reassure potential purchasers that I am legitimate.

    2. The Geocities servers are more reliable than those of my old ISP.

    3. When I dropped my old ISP all of the links to my old pages with them went bad. Since Geocities, Tripod etc. are free there is never any financial incentive to drop your pages, and so the links to those pages will never go bad.

    Although I recently purchased a domain name from NSI in my view there is not much that is better on the web than Geocities, Fortunecity and other web hosting outfits that give you free pages and without popup adds (boo, Tripod).


    As far as Geocities getting the right to sell the content of my pages, good luck to them if they can sell my jottings. I am reminded of the Shakespeare quote, "He who steals my purse, steals trash."

  • Thank you! It rather bothered me to read the 'pretty dog' post. I don't have one at the moment, but I have--in the past--had sites could be considered 'pretty dog' sites. I like them, and I like those of others.

    People have pictures of their family on their desks at work. I would consider putting a picture of my dog here. A web site pursuing that same end is, IMO, nearly the same thing.

    Maybe I will throw together a page for my dog when I get home.

    -awc
  • Posted by FascDot Killed My Previous Use:

    A couple weeks ago there was a discussion on /. about NCs and storing your data/programs at the ISP. I object to that concept and this story is an excellent example of why.
    ---
    Put Hemos through English 101!
  • That's kinda like saying Sharpie has the rights to my artwork, though.


    --
  • If these unethical assertions of ownership of everything continue, I will not be surprised to see the standard TOS include clauses similar to the below:

    We assume ownership of and all rights to material which is linked to from our search engine or database.

    Also, a question: Do libraries assume copyright ownership and all intellectual rights to the contents of the books on their shelves? Of course not. There is no reasonable excuse for the need for these insulting clauses popping-up everywhere other than sheer greed and the hope to exploit the material, thoughts, and work of other people without compensation.

    Of course, Geocities is, I believe, owned by Microsoft. I'm sure once they were acquired, they quickly learned this lesson of 'take what isn't yours and profit from it'.

    I wonder what would happen if you host your site at Yahoo, Geocities, and Tripod? They all assume full ownership of your material. I'd like to see all three fight each other for the right to your content.
    ---
    seumas.com

  • I was particularly amused by the fact the contract makes it so Yahoo isn't responsible for the content of the page...

    ...but they still have the rights to the content.

    So somewhere somebody makes a contract that says: "We get everything, and you get five MB of free web space." Fantastic.

    How many other people can't wait for the day when everyone with Linux can host their own fully-capable web site right from their desktop?
    You can have all the cgi programs you want, all the mailboxes, all the space, all the bandwidth, etc. That will be really cool.

    Just a thought.

  • Seeing this disturbing news, I think everyone who is worried about this should go check out the Boycott Yahoo Home Page and see what we can do about it.

    http://www.sitepowerup.com/toofar.htm
  • If they claim all the rights, then I guess they're claiming to have all the responsibility for anything posted there, too, eh? Somehow I doubt it.
  • Posted by self assembled structure:

    if you read the terms and the article in wired real carefully you'll notice that anyhting currently on there does not fall under these guidelines, you just can't modify any of the information on your site. this is still pretty dumb, but at least they're not claiming ownership over things that already exist.
  • like those aol guys did. if they make money off of your site, you should demand payment. without the members there would be no draw. more popular sites should get payment too.

    "The lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."
  • I've already nuked my site and put up a protest one in its place:

    http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/8984

    So much for free space (now at the low, low cost of ownership of your work).
  • "GeoCities is now part of the Yahoo! family. Before you can use all of Yahoo!'s services you'll
    need to go through our re-registration process."

    I do not have the option of not using Yahoo's services and just staying with Geocities. I must now join Yahoo in order to edit or, in my case, remove my Geocities page.

    If anybody finds a way around this, could they email me here [mailto]?

    On a side note, when the internet originally came out, it strongly resembled the laissez-faire model of economics. Now it's starting to resemble a mixed market economy too much - the governemnt supports the big businesses who pay for election funds. Maybe socialism is next with the government regulating everything.. But, on the other hand, I haven't been to Australia lately..
  • Read the fine print on the GeoCities contract (if there is one) if they owned it before, then they own it now, but they can't just change it on people in midstream.

    What if you put an bootleg copy of somebodys song in mp3 on your site, do they own it?? NO WAY!

    What if you are talking about a Ford automobile? Do they own the Ford name?

    As a contract, you agree to let them put adds on your site, they agree to povide space for a site as long as their adds are allowed to display. Okay, where is the compensation for the content you put up?

    Photo magazines have been running contests for years that say all entrys become property of the sponser, but you agree to that in hopes of getting the prize.

    GeoCities may be able to repost or redisplay your content, but for them to make a profit on it, mmmm, sounds like it could be LawyerCities to me.
  • E-mail everyone you know about this problem, citing yahoo's TOS and urging them to withdraw their page and pass the message on. I know I already have...

    Wow...chain mail with a purpose, who woulda thunk it?
  • According to the previous post, you could have kept your website... Now, Yahoo just owns your protest. Any guesses as to how long before they try to force people to take down certain protest/"offensive" web sites?
  • natedawg to the rescue of all scum-sucking bottom-dwellers...

    A scant few of us (lawyer types) actually can use unix/bsd/linux.

    I do not agree with the current state of affairs in the on-line world. The problem is not lawyer domination; rather, it is corporate-lawyer domination.

    The internet is evolving into a haven for big-biz,and the little-folks are being converted into commodities.

    Lawyers are not evil en toto. We all are happy for our lawyers that do a good job to protect our interests.

    In the Geocities cases, there is Geocities represented by Yahoo's lawyers, and the other side (the homesteaders) do not have representation (yet). This presents a power imbalance.

    Perhaps a new kind of governmental model may help home users to close the power gap.

    Never before have so many average people come into direct or indirect contact with lawyers, contracts, and licenses. There must be a way for these people to learn about and receive advice as to courses of action.

    Enter the ICP owned by [a] lawyer/s. (Don't get all pissed off yet...) I know that for most people contact with lawyers is anethema. What if the you had a contract with a lawyer for representation in internet related issues; your website and all it's content was housed on the lawyer's servers; and your email etc was also housed there.

    By doing this, you can keep or release as much control over your content as you like. You will be covered by the attorney/client privilege and you can waive that privilege to the extent you like. Even the NSA's own tactics will work for you!

    This sounds a little far fetched because lawyers are clueless for the most part about computers. But this model will protect content. Hypothetically the lawyer/ICP could charge minimally for the cost because a large volume of people could be serviced. So exorbitant lawyer fees could be a thing of the past.

    Well, it is just a dream. And I AM just a law student... But, I'm thoroughly convinced that if the average user doesn't receive legal representation in their everday meanderings on the net, we will all be owned by corporations and corporate lawyers.

    Until then... encrypted everything. Set up VPNs. Think security and ownership in everything you do on the internet.

    The day may come when your driver's licence number is the property of X.com...

  • So, they expect people to just 'start donating' their IP, with the hope that Yahoo will agree with it, and not modify it to suite their needs? They honestly think that they can get away with this, with so many of the free web space providers out there without this stipulation?

    I say we all start setting up porn and Warez sites now, thousands at a time.. Let's see how fast they change their minds about owning rights to it all.. ;-P
  • by Gumber (17306) on Tuesday June 29, 1999 @07:50AM (#1826551) Homepage
    First: This does not mean that "... anyone who has a page on Geocities no longer
    has the rights to what they have created. "


    It grants yahoo a perpetual, transferable & non-exclusive, sublicensable right to the content. This does not mean that the original author is not free to use or sell their content, though it means that in theory, yahoo, or one of their partners could sell the content themselves.

    Second: Yahoo maintains that their intent is not to deprive authors of their rights, but rather to avoid lawsuits in the future. I am inclined to believe them and I think others should take them at their word as well.

    This is not to say that people shouldn't complain vociferously to Yahoo about this new policy. It is sufficiently broad that it leaves the door open to future abuse and it needs amendmant.

    Unfortunatly, even if they want to do the right thing, there is a long road ahead. This verbiage exists because current copyright conventions are not a good fit for the modern age.

    The latest revision of the copyright conventions was supposed to take into account the realities of this modern age, but it is clearly a failure. It may or may not represent the interests of large copyright holders. It clearly fails to represent the interests of small copyright holders and the publising industry that has sprung up around them.

    So, instead of antagonizing Yahoo, and their ilk, treat them as allies. They have the resources & economic interest to make a positive change.
  • If you read the whole TOS, you'll notice that Yahoo reserves the right to delete your account at any time(exactly like all other online services) but when you add this in, it means that they can copy the contents of your site, use it as their own, and make yours disappear.

    Now that's scary.

  • To be honest, people that can't afford a $5-a-month shell account probably don't have webpages worth visiting anyway. The "big draws" at Geocities probably would make plenty of money off of banner ads and God knows what else to more than recoup a 5-dollar-a-month operating cost. All the "look at my pretty dog" fluff webpages would be nuked, and the world would be a better place.

    - A.P.
    --


    "One World, One Web, One Program" - Microsoft Promotional Ad

  • From the tripod [tripod.com] member agreement:
    Member Web Pages: c) By submitting a Member Web Page to Tripod, you grant Tripod and its affiliates a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide, unrestricted license to use, copy, modify, transmit, distribute, and publicly perform or display the submitted Member Web Page, as well as portions thereof and content and material thereon.
    It appears that this certainly isn't limited to Yahoo/Geocities. I think it does have implications for anyone putting original material, especially things like art or music, on "free" web spaces. Whether companies like Tripod or Yahoo would actually try to make use of that content is probably questionable, but the fact that it's in the license, which few people actually read, makes me uneasy. I also wonder if the clause can be applied to content put on a geocities or tripod site and later moved to another host. Do they retain any sort of "legacy" rights?

    -alan

  • > By submitting Content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such Content has expressly granted, Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed.


    This I suspect is a little too broad for what Yahoo is at the moment (a catalog service). I would argue on an individual level that Yahoo is a publishing house and therefore the only rights that it should receive are a right to reproduce (cache) and republsh (serve web pages to the public). If it is a multimedia studio, then it should at least have the professional courtesy to define the services it is providing to the customers (someone else can argue about the legitimacy of those services).

    The scary part is the "technology now known or later developed". This effectively extinguishes all future rights to derivative products. Hypothetically if someone is the next da Vinci who started say a new trendy artform, then Yahoo can put a claim to that. I wonder what law courts would say about implicit contracts imposed by a knowledgeble party to create a lien on future income. Capitalism is one thing but selling out your future life-earnings for a pittance is another!

    LL
  • I think its time to make a new internet, one where crap like this doesn't happen. By keeping things seperate (eg: one nation wide network for video+voice, one for commerce, one for industry communications, one for research, and one for the individuals) everyone could end up happy.


    One for commerce? Almost begs the question "What if we threw a party and nobody came?".... I personally would never want anything to do with junkmailnet :)
  • There is even a quote in the wired story saying that this will probably change when user protests reach hurricane level. Expect that to happen within a few days.

    Yahoo suits have to react in the next day or two. If not, users of geocities who post material that is truly dear to them will start yanking their sites as fast as they can. What will remain will be a bunch of useless wannabe pages, and various picts of grandchildren and dogs.

    They shot themselves in the head with this one, lets sit back and watch the power of online communities smack them back into a proper line of thinking. Is anyone else getting a little tired of watching these reactions to bone-headed moves, since we know the outcome will always be to the advantage of the mass of offended people.

    the AC
  • Just in case someone moderated it....
    Disturbing
    by sophisto (slutty_pants@yourmomshouse.og) on Tuesday June 29, @01:23PM EDT (#)
    (User Info) http://www.ungabunga.com

    If yahoo get away with stealing users IP, they are in essence stealing the users ID.
    I hope that other ISP's don't follow this & create a terrifying trend.


    IP in this instance means INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY . Why don't you try reading a little bit more than the title of the article BEFORE POSTING. People like you are the reason I look both ways before crossing a greened intersection.

    Catch a ride on the clue train, man. Please don't do this again.
    -rah
  • Your analogy is a bit off. The difference here is that with a company they are paying you for your work. Geocities is not paying you. They are already using your IP as a conduit for ad money (that is how they can give "free" web space) but now they want to own your IP too. (or sublicense whatever, IANAL)

    TC
  • The Wired article on the Yahoo/Geocities merger (there's a link to it in this Slashdot story) quoted a professor of intellectual property law, who theorizes that Yahoo is probably most interested in covering their own asses, and that it isn't their intent to hijack large amounts of intellectual property.

    Still, reading those new terms of service made me nervous enough that I didn't want to take any chances of losing rights to intellectual property that I've worked hard on. I immediately tried to sign onto ftp.geocities.com to clean out my site, only to find that I was locked out of my ftp account, with a notice to visit the yahoo.geocities.com help page for all the latest info.

    I arrive there to find that in order to access my geocities page, I was now required to create a Yahoo account for myself in addition to my existing Geocities account. In order to create a Yahoo account, I first had to agree to the terms of service that I found objectionable to begin with. No thank you!

    After several minutes of further searching for a contact email address, I found one (support@geocities.com), and emailed them with a polite request to axe my account, explaining what I found objectionable.

    Remember when the Internet used to not suck?

  • They have a purpose too sometimes. My site could be called that, but I would make a real one, it's just I dont' know what to make it on. So, I just make a "this is my web page, look" site, and hopefully use the skills I've learned when it really counts. I'm fixing to get hired to make a web site for one of my dad's organizations, and thanks to my "pretty dog" site, I can do it since I know how to code HTML.
  • First: I think you people need to read the yahoo policy before you go off. Yahoo is not claiming ownership. They are claiming broad rights to use works posted to their site (too broad, I would argue, but not motivated by malice)

    Second: When did Slashdotters become so proprietary about IP?
  • c) By submitting a Member Web Page to Tripod, you grant Tripod and its affiliates a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide, unrestricted license to use, copy, modify, transmit, distribute, and publicly perform or display the submitted Member Web Page, as well as portions thereof and content and material thereon.

    Taken from the Tripod TOS. If this is posted lower... forgive me, or just flame me. I'm wearing my asbestos armor still. ;)

    Anyway, the point is, it's not just geocities.
    It is by caffeine alone I set my mind in motion. set my mind in motion.
    It is by the beans of Java that thoughts acquire speed.
  • by Ixy (5667)
    Please get a clue, people. The sites are giving you hosting space at no up front cost, for the sake of attracting surfers to their advertising. They also don't want trouble with people violating commercial copyrights so they draft these agreements. Of course the sidelight to this is that Yahoo and Tripod could, if they wanted to, take your material and use it any way they wish to. This goes for Yahoo/Geocities, Tripod and probably more than a few other 'free' hosting services. They aren't free in any real sense. They allow your material on their hosts to attract surfers to see their customer's advertising. And they ask you to agree to their terms, which will always leave them blameless for your actions. That's the way it is and the way it has to be for them to make money off your IP.

    Lesson one: Read the fine print

    Never sign anything until you've read all of it. I suprised everyone in the waiting room at a doctor's office a few months ago by refusing to sign a release that would have made my medical records open to anyone who wanted to see them and absolved the doctor from any responsibility for the security of the info. It was, of course, just a release to cover his personal ass in case something leaked and I threatened to sue. Of course, I didn't sign this release and wasn't compelled to.

    The receptionist said that she had never seen anyone refuse to sign it or even ask what it was about. The other people there were just as suprised that anyone would refuse to sign a release. I did sign other releases relating to procedures themselves but not this one relating to the security of my medical records.

    Lesson two: As Heinlein said, there's no such thing as a free lunch

    Does anything more need to be said about this one?

    I'm sure they will revise this agreement somewhat to quell the outraged users. To do otherwise would be bad for business. And, just as certainly, this will happen all over again with some other service. Free hosting is worth as much as you pay for it.
  • I think the "right to edit" thing stems from the fact that they append all of the annoying Javascript code to the end of the HTML files they serve that gives us the banner ads and watermarks.

    But as any sensible person knows, you should always look at how such agreements can be misused...

    Jay (=
  • don't use yahoo. Use AltaVista, or even better, www.google.com (a Linux based search engine). I don't use geocities (most of the pages I've seen have been crap, and those adds are plain annoying), but until yahoo makes some changes to the contract or they can justify themselvs I will search elsewere.

  • It's really simple. If its good, they own it and can sell it. If its bad you are responsible, but since they own they can delete it.

    TC
  • The poster of the story wrote:
    [...] anyone who has a page on Geocities no longer has the rights to what they have created.
    This is false, as anyone who actually reads the contract can easily see:
    8. CONTENT SUBMITTED TO YAHOO [...] By submitting Content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, [...] Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable,
    non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use [...]
    In other words, you still own the copyright and therefor have full rights to what you have created. However, you have given Yahoo a permanent, non-exclusive license to use your material however they see fit.

    Not that this is a good thing... you probably don't want to agree to this kind of contract, and if you use Geocities you should definitely let Yahoo know that you will not accept this language. But let's not misstate the issues, as unfotunately happens all too often with IP-related stories on Slashdot.

  • There is a big difference between owning an object and owning commercial rights to it. As I read the liscense, they were not claiming ownership, but were claiming the right to reproduce your product.
    In other words, they aren't liable if you post something someone doesn't like, but anything you post can be reproduced freely by yahoo for their own purposes.

    An analogy: you buy an artwork at an auction. You have bought the object, but that doesn't mean you can reproduce it freely. This is the inverse situation. Yahoo is just claiming the commercial rights, not ownership.
    Note that the agreement specifically says "non-exclusive." This means that you still have the right to liscense your IP however you want, as long as yahoo has the right to use it. However, yahoo claims the right to subliscense their rights, so in theory you could be in competion with them for liscensing fees. If, however, they enacted that clause, their customers would be unhappy and probably would flock to other webspace providers.
  • First of all you are incorrect in stating that "with a little bit of wordplay you could say Yahoo owns the content to kiddie-porn on such site and warez on another...." This is not true. They never claim to own or take responsibility for anything on their webpages. Quite the opposite actually. They explicitly state that they DO NOT own or take responsibility for ANYTHING. They simply state that if they so desire or if they feel that it is beneficial to do so, they can sell, license, alter, reproduce, or do anything else to the content of the pages that they want. While this is not exactly moral and ethical there is nothing ILLEGAL whatsoever about this agreement. And I also object to your ignorant rantings about lawyers. As a student well on my way towards a career in IP Law, I would take offense at your comments if their absurdity did not so obviously illustrate you as a an ignoramus.
    Have a nice day ;-)
  • Oops.

    Going back and searching through the article for the word "exclusive", I see that it is indeed "non-exlclusive".

    I'm apologize for the slipup when I submitted the story to Slashdot, I had honestly thought that it had said "exclusive".

  • Posted by saintmae:

    I had a Geocities page. After I found out about this bullshit, I deleted the whole damn thing. I reccomend a boycott of all Yahoo and Geocities sites.
  • I don't know the answer to this question, so I pose it to the /. community:

    What would happen (legally) if a Geocities/Yahoo user were to agree to this contract, and then post something which has a more restrictive license?

    Consider the following (hypothetical) situation: I agree to the license and then post a GPL'd program (source and binaries). What if Yahoo then decides to compile a "best of GeoCities programs CD" without the source. Do they violate the GPL (if they don't make the code available)? Maybe I'm at fault for providing Geocities with the program when I know that they might do this?

    Any lawyers out there who know the answer?

    I, for one, plan on not updating my old Geocities page.
  • I wrote some programs (they're pretty much worthless, but they do exist) half a year ago and uploaded them to my geocities thingy as tarballs under GPL. I don't believe they actually have any control over them, either. They've got a copyright in my name plastered all over every source file and explicit licensing terms included (in the cannonical fashion). What's a fat ass company to do?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Thanks!
    I resent your comments. No, I don't have $5 per month to mantain a website. I am a scientist, and I live in Argentina; a poor country with *no interest* in science. I had a website on my research (I am a biologist, a *poor* one) and on Argentina's fishes--as far as I know, the ONLY one. I also had some aquarium articles. I put a *lot* of effort on it (read many style guides and HTML tutorials, even part of W3C's HTML4.0 specification!). I had, almost exclusively, very good reviews. Now my website is *nuked*. Thanks Yahoo! gacp.
  • Its not theft! You are handing out copies of it to everyone anyways. Hell, everyone browsing the website gets a copy!

    Its giving them the rights to 'duplicate' your work, this does not give you any fewer rights to the sale of your work than you had before.

    If it can be duplicated freely, how can it be property? If its not property, how can duplicating be theft?

  • But it does remove your control and dilute the value of your works. Economics is the art of artificial scarcity. If there is a shortage of wheat, prices go up. One off artistic works like scultures are unique. That is why professional artists take great care in evolving and protecting a particular style.

    However, to sell it to a museum, they need to state its authencity and source. Without the ability to control the marketing and subsequent distribution (what Yahoo are claiming IMHO) your bargining power is severely reduced.

    The other point is scarcity defines value. Collectors pay fortunes for once-off items that cannot be duplicated again. By giving themselves the right to infinite duplication, Yahoo is claiming a large share of any future economic goods that a user may produce, including the power to give it away to destroy your livelihood if your income is dependent on your intellectual efforts.

    Nothing technically illegal but it is not a balanced contract.

    LL
  • I don't know about others, but I don't percieve geocities pages as somehow more "legitimate" than pages on another server. In fact, I view geocities as a slum of the internet. There's precious little content that'll get me to click through to a geocities page in the first place, and there's almost none that has me coming back again. (Actually, in my bookmarks, there aren't any.)

    Besides, the Geocities popup windows or the stupid bullet they put at the bottom of the page are very annoying.
  • Moderators, please give the preceding post its due. Its an important question. I'm trying to get my stuff off there right now but can't remember my password/login. :(


    Here's the important question:
    ...I'm wondering what happens to guys who save their Open Source, Free Software and stuff there...
  • >There are a number of sites, or at least there WERE a number of hosted pages for GPL'ed projects
    >on Geocities in the past. I'd advise anyone with a project in such a situation to move to another
    >provider.
    >Keeping your open-source/GPL stuff hosted on Geocities could very well violate the GPL.

    doubtful, because Yahoo is claiming the non-exclusive right to redistribute and modify the material posted. This is largely what the GPL allows. There are plenty of subtleties which make life interesting, but these have broader application than the GPL. For example, if I have permission from a copyright owner to post her work on my Yahoo webpage, but no rights to modify, etc., can I grant the rights that Yahoo is claiming?
  • That's a pity. Since in any gathering of humans, the majority is always wrong.

  • First of all, yahoo does not automatically assume ownership of any geocities content, only that they have to rights to do with it as they see fit. As for most of the content on Geocities pages is personal homepages anyways, who really cares? Do I spend my nights worrying about Yahoo selling information on what I named my cats, or tips I've provided for my favorite hobby?

    The fact of the matter is, this information was posted free of charge anyways, so Yahoo/Geocities has no financial advantage to attempt to sell such content. However, if they post a banner ad on your page (they do already) and make money from it, and some pissed off homepage owner decides they want a share of that money, this policy will effectively stop lawsuits.

    And nobody uses Geocities for commercial purposes, and if they are, then they probably don't deserve to be doing business anyways.

    I don't really see a problem here.

    -Restil
  • by jd (1658)
    My pages are covered by the GPL, which means that Geocities is entitled to claim what they like, but they can't do anything to actually restrict anyone from accessing my pages on Geocities. If they do, they are in breach of licence.
  • Wow... their stock price is low compared to what it used to be and now they're claiming that users pages are intellectual property?

    They must really be getting desperate. I've seen some of those pages and there's nothing intellectual about it.

    Sorry to those dozen people who actually have something useful there.

    -- m
  • I think the majority in this case would be the people with wannabe pages and pictures of grandchildren and dogs.
  • Xoom.com is another company that provides free web pages (I have a web page there so I checked out their service agreement).

    This is from their service agreement (italics added):

    "You grant to XOOM.com and its affiliates a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, worldwide, unrestricted license to use, copy, modify, transmit, distribute, and publicly perform or display the submitted pages or other content for the purposes of displaying such information on XOOM.com's sites and for the promotion and marketing of XOOM.com's services. XOOM.com disclaims ownership of member sites and will not resell or otherwise convey these rights to any third party."

    Compare this with Yahoo/Geocities' service agreement:

    "By submitting Content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such Content has expressly granted, Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed."

    Yahoo's claim that their agreement is necessary to protect themselves against lawsuits doesn't hold water. If that were true, their agreement would be more like Xoom's, which sounds exactly like what is needed to protect themselves against lawsuits. Yahoo's agreement sounds like they intend to profit from the sale or resale of content posted on the webpages .. this is completely unacceptable.

  • Well, I run a small ISP (Sandwich.Net), and our Web hosting accounts start at $5.95/month ($1.95/month extra for shell), including e-mail access. I'm told we have good customer service - I do my best. :)
  • Wouldn't this be a good opportunity for competitors of GeoCities steal customers by offering a service that ensures that your content remains "your content"?

    After all, if it doesn't cost them anything to move, and the incentive is there, wouldn't it make sense to move - just in case you happen to hit upon a money-spinner down the track?

    I wonder what the situation would be if a GeoCities user came up with a winner like slashdot ... Would Yahoo step in and say "Wow! Cool idea! Thanks for that - but we'll take it from here" ? (of course, with windows containing banner adds popping up every 10 seconds, it'd likely piss too many people off to get on a roll like that :)

    M@T
  • You might want to look at the Open Source Web Presence Project [netpedia.net].
  • Actually, you usually can have a T1 run to your house - just be prepared to pay extra for mileage. (Dedicated ISDN also depends on the provider - in many Pacific Bell service areas, you can't get flat-rate pricing, so always-on service would end up costing around $600 per month.)
  • First, I'd advise DELETING the old page..

    Well, as you supplied it BEFORE you knew they might do that, then how can you be held at fault?

    If they owned the rights to the program, couldn't they change the license though? Is it possible to 'revoke' the GPL from a program??

    IANAL, but this is certainly weird.

    Actually, what happens if I upload warez to their server? Do they then own the rights to microsoft front page?!? LOL
  • You know the answer to the second question. IP is something to be protected and its attendant rights are to be cherished when it is my stuff and IP is a load of crap that should be disregarded because property is theft when it is your stuff. What matters here is not the principle involved, just whether or not 'da man is trying to exploit you.
  • pass the bar and open your site and good luck
  • I'm sure that the remaining clauses can be justified as easily (I don't have them in front of me, so I can't come up with the justifications).

    The one I don't understand is the "perpetual" part. The licence gives Geocities/Yahoo the right to distribute in perpetuity your content on any medium available now or in the future.

    So let's say you have inaccurate information on your site, which Geocities/Yahoo distribute on CD (using the "perpetual" provision), after which you fix the inaccurate information and publish any necessary retractions, like a good Geocitizen. Someone then complains to Geocities/Yahoo about the inaccurate information on their CD. You did the right thing, but you wear the blame for Geocities/Yahoo's distribution of inaccurate information.

    Scary.

  • Don't attribute to malce that which can easily be explained by stupidity.

  • Here is the troublesome section:

    8. CONTENT SUBMITTED TO YAHOO

    By submitting Content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such Content has expressly granted, Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed. You acknowledge that Yahoo does not pre-screen Content, but that Yahoo and its designees shall have the right (but not the obligation) in their sole discretion to refuse, edit, move or remove any Content that is publicly available via the Service. Without limiting the foregoing, Yahoo and its designees shall have the right to remove any Content that violates the TOS or is otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of any Content, including any reliance on the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of such Content. In this regard, you acknowledge that you may not rely on any Content created by Yahoo or submitted to Yahoo, including without limitation information in Yahoo! Message Boards, Yahoo! Clubs, and in all other parts of the Service.


  • I was having a chat with the tech guy here at work
    and we came to the same conclusion, about how bad the internet sucks. I sincerely doubt if Geo/Yahoo wants to reproduce kiddie pages with broken links, images, bad HTML, java apps all over, not to mention horrendous background images. Somehow people with those kinds of pages think they're cool, acccccck! I guess I should damper their enthusiasm, but oh pls!


    I see the net now in terms of that Sprint commercial with Candace Bergen (oh how I long for the days of deregulation in Alberta!! I'd pay $2 a minute long distance if it meant I didn't have to see another Sprint ad three times in a row!) where everyone is looking into their screens and saying dumb things like "I'm surfing the net!".


    Kind of bizarre really. I think Geo is a cult. If you try to say something bad about them (use "geocensored" in hotbot) all these people will come up and get mad at you and say how nice it is that Geo gives them all these things...but they don't realize what Geo is collecting about them and just using them as cheap advertising.


    I had an acct there in 1996-1997. Got out while I could, when I was offered free space and no ads by some nice guys. It used to be OK. Then came the java ads, the pop up ads, ads, the watermark...good lord! If a surfer needs to be told that their in a Geo site, then they have to be pretty dumb! I worked so hard to put a site together and suddenly it seemed so hollow. It's not a community, it's a cesspool of psychographics and greed, playing off the hopes and dreams of real people.

  • Give nothing? How about web hosting for people to chintzy to pay for their own bandwidth?
  • You idiot... When they started saying they own other people's IP!

  • How else does one define ownership other than the right to use as one pleases? After transferring your property to Yahoo via acceptance of this agreement and posting what right do you have that they do not? If they can (regardless of if they probably will and/or do) copy your site verbatim and repost everything under a different url, and you can't do anything about it, can you still say they don't own it?
  • Say I manages to post a page on the new Yahoo! service containing in a completely anonymous manner (the details of how this would be done are really beside the point). What would be the expected outcome of this? Yahoo! might be denying responsibility, but then who is responsible?
  • :-) There can be such a thing as a free lunch. My site, The Great Thompson Hunt, used to be on Geo.
    Then in May 1998, Lenny asked if I would like to host it on his server. No strings attached. No licence, no contract, no ads, no nothing. And it's true.


    A year later the site has grown to over 14MB and nothing's stopping us. I can use swear words instead of blanking them out, and use naughty photos and other things that would have definitely been no-nos in Geo.


    The funny thing is, a week after moving to the tekknowledge server, I got a second free hosting offer by a guy in California. So now TGTH has a mirror to boot.


    Both guys are gonzo fans. Both are the greatest net friends I could ever have. I get more visitors on a faster server. We three sit back and reap the rewards of having visitors who respect us and what we do for them.

  • by nicksand (28560) on Tuesday June 29, 1999 @07:54AM (#1826644)
    Protecting themselves from lawsuits is one thing, but claiming complete rights over webpages? Sheer BS. I work in a Silicon Valley startup and my contract is less restrictive in regards to intellectual property than Yahoo's is (my company basically gets the right to use any ideas I come up with in any of its products, but does not claim the right to sell my ideas directly).

    This Yahoo-Geocities thing is only the beginning of a bad trend. Has anyone looked at NSI's webpage lately? Or ordered a domain from them? They are trying to get customers to aquire the .net and .org address together with a .com purchase, in order to "triple your exposure". Back in my day, these suffixes actually meant something (eg: org = npo, com=commerical, net=network). It seems that logic and meaning has been tossed to the wind in order to make money.

    The worst thing is, its all downhill from here. The governments are getting ready to dip their fingers into regulating the net. How long do you think they can stay away from the highly publicized and alluring money that is generated by e-commerce?

    I think its time to make a new internet, one where crap like this doesn't happen. By keeping things seperate (eg: one nation wide network for video+voice, one for commerce, one for industry communications, one for research, and one for the individuals) everyone could end up happy.

    So what does all this have to do with the original post or the first part of my message? Frankly, I'm not sure. I just realized that I have begun to ramble :).

    Anyway, expect to see more shit like this happen in the future.
  • They should have worded it differently.. With the current wording, if you put up content, they can literally steal it from under you without having to pay a dime for it. You throw up a web page that suddenly catches on for some reason or another, they can now use all of your works without having to pay a dime for them. There is NO limitation for this sort of thing. No, their lawyers aren't stupid, and could have easily added clauses in there, but they didn't..
  • I think the problem here is that many of the 'big draws' may not be aware that such accounts are widely available. My wife has a web site design business, and when I offered to put my mother's home page (which was on AOL) on a server we use for some random stuff, she basically said "can you do that?"

    Hopefully, a lot of people will look at this and see that a better alternative is available.

  • by Croaker (10633) on Tuesday June 29, 1999 @08:15AM (#1826659)
    if they owned it before, then they own it now, but they can't just change it on people in midstream.

    Not unless they state that the contract between the user and GeoCities can be amended at any time, which they probably do (and usualy saying that no notice has to be offered). I'm not sure how enforceable this is, in RL, but I suspect it would be difficult to even get them to court.

    What if you put an bootleg copy of somebodys song in mp3 on your site, do they own it?? NO WAY!
    What if you are talking about a Ford automobile? Do they own the Ford name?

    Of course not. Basically, they state that you are responsible for any copyright/trademark/whatever infringement. Anything left after that they own. Sweet, innit?

    GeoCities may be able to repost or redisplay your content, but for them to make a profit on it, mmmm, sounds like it could be LawyerCities to me.

    Err... what do you think they are doing now? Giving out webpages out of the kindness of their hearts? Nope, they are selling ad space around your content. That's making a profit.

    What they are saying now is that they can repackage that content into, say "a best of GeoCities" CD or something.

    I find it ironic that people screaming about their IP rights when their sites are chock full of copyrighted images they scanned in, audio files they recorded off of videos and TV, and often buttons and other images they ripped off of other sites.

    Whenever graphics artists complain that someone is ripping off their stuff, someone inevitably says "dude, take it as a compliment." Well, maybe you should take it as a compliment that Yahoo thinks they can make money off of your web page... What comes around, goes around.

  • Don't register a new account with them. By such, they can arguable say you agree to their terms.

    Do send them a registered return receipt letter stating in polite terms that you don't like their new terms, and want them to remove your pages from their site. Refference your pages, and your prior user account id in the letter so there is no ambiguity about what account you are refering to. If they are smart, they will reply back saying that they have don't have reliable info confirming you are really you and the owner of the account, or they delete the pages. If they do reply as such, then you return a new reply requesting reenabling your account explicitly stating you don't agree to their new terms so you may remove your Intelectual Property from their site. If they don't grant you this access, then sue their pants off. You now should have done enough to establish that they have gone beyond the right originally granted to them by you, and they have refused to remidy the situation.

    As always, consult a lawyer to find out your rights and obligations, but don't wait. Waiting to do this can be construed as tacit agreement to their new policy.

    On a side note. When a company changes contracts like credit card agrements they are required to notify all parites involved. I see no reason why they shouldn't be required to do the same.

  • by BlaisePascal (50039) on Tuesday June 29, 1999 @11:21AM (#1826673)
    Taking Yahoo at their word, I'd say their intent is not to deprive authors of their rights, but rather secure for Yahoo rights they feel they need...

    Geocities is in the business of hosting web sites. This involves taking material written and copyrighted by J. Random Author and copying and distributing it all over the world. By copyright law, without a license to do so, Geocities would be breaking the law.

    So they need a license to copy and distribute J. Random Author's pages.

    Geocities also habitually modifies web pages to display advertising. Again, without a license, this violates the law if they distribute the result.

    So that license also has to include the ability to modify the pages by J. Random Author that Geocities copies and distributes.

    Furthermore, Geocities was just bought by Yahoo. If Yahoo bought Geocities lock, stock, and barrel, then the licenses they previously had presumably go with it. But now Yahoo owns those licenses. If Yahoo got tired of Geocities, it would want to sell Geocities, and the licenses with them. Suddenly, Yahoo wants "transferrable" licenses, so it can transfer them if need be.

    Likewise, Yahoo might want to contract out the serving of Geocities pages, which means it would needs to sublicense the content.

    So this means that Yahoo needs, to do the basic type of thing it has been doing, a transferrable, sublicensable license to copy, distribute, and modify the content posted on Geocities. It doesn't need an exclusive license, so it specifies that it wants a "non-exclusive" license.

    Likewise, since they are just putting the pages up without prior review of the contents, they don't want to be held responsible for any content that is of questionable legality.

    I'm sure that the remaining clauses can be justified as easily (I don't have them in front of me, so I can't come up with the justifications).

    The problem is... While it allows Yahoo to do what they are currently doing, it also allows them to do a whole bunch more, stuff that J. Random Author might find objectionable.

    I think what they wanted to do was something like:

    "We respect that you, the author, have a valid copyright on the content of this page. As such, we need, from you, the legal right to provide that content on the WWW, with ads inserted by us, as we have always done, as well as the legal right to readjust how we serve those pages to best serve our business interests. At the same time, we also trust you to be in a position to give us those rights, and do not want to be involved in lawsuits concerning -your- right to say what you say on this page."

    Would that intent be justifiable? I think that that intent is compatable with the contract and their statements concerning their intent.
  • All this about item 8 of the "Terms of Service". Take a look at item 6 as well.

    You understand that all information, data, text, software, music, sound, photographs, graphics, video, messages or other materials ("Content"), whether publicly posted or privately transmitted, are the sole responsibility of the person from which such Content originated. This means that you, and not Yahoo, are entirely responsible for all Content that you upload, post, email or otherwise transmit via the Service.

    So, let's paraphrase:

    "We're not responsible. It's all your fault. You did it all by yourself. Now it's ours."

    Did someone miss the logic train? Is there a lawyer somewhere who can explain this?

  • Tripod's ToS also states much the same thing.

    Xoom's ToS looks like the old Geocities ToS - granting them rights to use the work royalty free for promotional purposes, but not for sale to 3rd parties.

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