An ESC! Magazine Editorial

June 30, 1999

Et tu Yahoo!? 
The Great Internet Land Grab of 1999

by Michael R. Potter

Well, things certainly change quickly on the Internet. Last night I was incensed to learn that the wording in the new Yahoo!Geocities license agreement basically gave Yahoo! The rights to the works published on the free web hosting service Geocities.

The reason this upset me so much was that, as a publisher and supporter of new writers and artists, I support the rights of the authors to resell or redistribute their work after it appears in ESC!Magazine or ESC!Webs. I clearly state that I am merely obtaining one-time rights to the works in question.

What Yahoo! was saying is that they get the rights to anything an individual publishes on their "free" site. As an example, let's say that I were to publish the contents of my site ( on Geocities. As I mentioned above, ESC! is an e-zine, I republish other people's work. In doing so, I ask them for one-time rights to their work and then, afterwards, the copyright reverts back to the author.

Now, let's say that I sign this new agreement with Geocities. The author of that original work I published gets lucky and sells it to some big time publisher and stands to make some money on it. Guess what?? They're up to be sued by Yahoo! for selling Yahoo!'s work, because, remember, Yahoo! owns their work now. Yikes!! Guess who else gets sued? That's right... ME!

Other examples: Screenwriters, artists, photographers, basically anyone who creates original works of art is at risk of just giving it away to Yahoo! with the stroke of a pen. In fact, Yahoo! HOPED you wouldn't read their new agreement. How else would they build up their library or resalable works??

Think about it.  All of the links on your Geocities site, the words you write, the images you create, all would belong to Yahoo! BLEECH! I personally feel that if they want all rights to my work, they better compensate me handsomely for them!

WELL, guess what? I'm happy to report that the complaining and threatened boycotts paid off. One day later, Yahoo! changes the wording in their agreement to explicitly state that the rights of the web sites remain with the authors. Yahoo!, of course, says that they never intended to take possession of the intellectual property of the Geocities users. Regardless, Thank you Yahoo! for changing the wording, and thank you keeping my faith in you.

Yahoo! was one of the original web indexes and as such, set the standard which many others imitated but never succeeded in duplicating. They took this success and formed a corporation, basically a publishing house, which now has its hands in many different ventures. For a brief moment I started to believe there were too many ventures. Fortunately, cooler heads at Yahoo! prevailed and reworded the agreement.

Whew! I can use Yahoo! again.

What's the lesson in all of this?  Read your license agreements!  Protect your property rights even if you don't think what you have is valuable enough to protect.  You never know who might want to buy it someday, and when that day comes, you'll want to know that you have the right to sell it.

For those who want to read more about this story, follow this link to ZDNN:,4586,2286692,00.html 

Related Links:

NEW Yahoo! 
Terms of Service

If you want to investigate other free hosting services use the links below:
(these sites are neither endorsed by or recommended by ESC! Publications or Michael R. Potter. Lists are current as of June 30, 1999.)
MSN Homepages
Yahoo! Free Web Pages Listing

Thanks for listening!

Michael R. Potter
ESC! Magazine