Signing your life away? March 27, 2012Posted by ianinsheffield in Musings, Twitter, Web 2.0.
Tags: registering, terms & conditions, terms of service
Last night I fired off a tweet providing notice of the latest post in my #366Web2.0 series. As it happens it was about Flixtime, an online application providing functionality similar to that of Animoto. Shortly afterwards a colleague replied asking:
Are the films created the property of Flixtime like Animoto? Is flix ok to use for pupil photos?
Well there are two things there I guess, so in the order they appeared:
1. This is a very valid question and one we perhaps ask ourselves all too rarely as we sign up for ‘free’ online services. How many of us take the time and trouble to read through the Terms of Service and simply put a tick mark in the checkbox saying we agree to them? On this occasion since I’d been prompted, I went back and took a look. Five and half thousand words later, I still couldn’t really answer the question fully. The ones at Flixtime aren’t particularly abstruse, but they’re still largely written in legalese, a language just fine and dandy for lawyers in a courtroom, but hardly accessible for an ordinary member of the public. I suppose I can consider myself reasonably well read, so how would the ToS appear to a 13 year old or to someone with learning difficulties? Yes a company has no choice but to protect itself from possible litigation, but is it reasonable to expect that a potential user will have read and understood over five thousand words of legally-oriented terminology? Here’s a sample from Flixtime’s terms:
This Agreement shall continue in perpetuity unless terminated in accordance with this Section 13. Flixtime at any time may terminate this Agreement in its sole discretion, including, without limitation, for breach by you of any of your representations, warranties or obligations under this Agreement.
I wondered if others were similar. Here’s a few words from YouTube’s three and half thousand:
14.3 You agree that if YouTube does not exercise or enforce any legal right or remedy which is contained in the Terms (or which YouTube has the benefit of under any applicable law), this will not be taken to be a formal waiver of YouTube’s rights and that those rights or remedies will still be available to YouTube.
And from Prezi’s four and half thousand words (which to be fair appears somewhat less inaccessible):
When you upload User Content on or through the Service, you represent and warrant that, with respect to all User Content that you upload, transmit, publish and disseminate through the Service, (a) you have all the rights and licenses necessary to use, reproduce, publish, display publicly, perform publicly, distribute or otherwise exploit such User Content in connection with the Service (and to grant to Prezi the licenses set forth in this Agreement);
And let’s not even think about PInterest!
Anyway, in answer to the original question, this phrase from Flixtime’s terms might help:
You hereby grant Flixtime a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to use your Submission for the purposes of providing the services contemplated hereunder.
Which suggests to me that Flixtime is at liberty to use your stuff, but doesn’t become the owner … however I’m more than happy to be corrected if my interpretation is too loose!
The second point is perhaps a little easier to answer … possibly!
2. “Is Flixtime OK to use with pupil photos?” I’d suggest requires pretty much the same answer as “Is it OK to post pictures of pupils on the Internet?” I’d guess that most (all?) schools have a policy regarding the taking and use of images, so that should be the starting point. If the policy doesn’t specifically discuss posting images, then a re-write might be in order. As do most schools, we post heaps of images of students on our official school website; we want people to be able to see students enjoying their time with us and we feel it’s important to recognise and celebrate student achievements. But we do so following guidelines which parents are aware of and have agreed with. Are sites other than the school website covered by the same terms? Should they be, or are they different?
Me? Well I’d be inclined to play safe and try to arrange my activities so that imagery used does not require inclusion of students, if I know the output will be posted to the Web. That way, the issue never arises. Or is that being too paranoid?