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Yahoo to Own GeoCities Content, Riling Members

Internet: Many personal Web sites include copyrighted works. Company denies plans to 'grab stuff and package it.'

June 30, 1999|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Many Internet users who have erected personal Web sites at GeoCities reacted angrily Tuesday after learning that the contents of their sites will belong to Yahoo Inc. as part of the merger between the two companies.

The new policy, spelled out in the "terms of service" for members of the community sites offered by the newly combined company, gives Yahoo the "perpetual, irrevocable" right to any material on GeoCities pages.

The change affects about 4.2 million GeoCities members, including photographers, writers and others who have posted their copyrighted works to personal Web pages.

"I just don't like the idea of this huge company saying they own my photos," said Jeffrey Lindblom, a Detroit-based professional photographer who has posted dozens of pictures at a GeoCities site that serves as a sample portfolio for potential customers.

"I'm definitely going to take it elsewhere."

Yahoo executives tried to defuse the situation Tuesday, saying the policy is simply part of the uniform terms of service for all Yahoo properties and is mainly for the company's legal protection.

"This is not a grounds for us to grab stuff and somehow package it for moneymaking purposes," said Tim Brady, vice president of production for Yahoo.

"Trust is a pretty fragile thing, and we know users would absolutely flee if we did anything like that."

Still, the policy gives the company the right "to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display" its members' content.

"That makes me nervous," said Amanda Troutner, an Arizona State University student who has posted nature photographs on her GeoCities site.

"I wouldn't want my pictures being taken or altered without credit for it."

Brady said Yahoo doesn't intend to do such things but will consider changing the policy if it remains a significant issue for members.

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