Yahoo! Revises GeoCities Terms; Many Call for More

Yahoo! Inc. has reversed a controversial policy that gave it ownership of all content created on its GeoCities Web community in response to a wave of outrage from members.

However, one of the leaders of the boycott against GeoCities said Thursday that his group’s efforts to get Yahoo! to do more will continue.

Late Wednesday, Yahoo! posted new terms of service that explicitly say Yahoo! does not own or control content that is posted on GeoCities sites.

The company plans to only use customers’ sites in promotional or marketing efforts. It will not use sites in books or any other media as members had feared.

A Yahoo! spokesman stressed there were never any plans for the company to use sites in books. He said the rules that led to the outrage were written before Yahoo!’s acquisition of GeoCities closed.

Jim Townsend, administrator of which also hosts Boycott Yahoo! Home Page said Yahoo!’s actions were only a good first step.

“They have not addressed multiple deficiencies, including forcing site operators to agree to (the new guidelines) before being able to log in and delete their own content,” he said.

Townsend said the boycott he helped organize is gaining momentum. His site has received more than 300,000 page views and he said an increasing number of Web sites are joining in the effort.

“Wouldn’t it be a great thing if by the Fourth of July Yahoo! took the remaining necessary steps to re-engineer its practices and thereby grant their users a true Independence Day?,” Townsend wrote.

For Yahoo!, the problems began on June 25 when it posted changes to its terms of service that gave the company a license to use a GeoCities member’s content in any way it wished and gave Yahoo!-GeoCities irrevocable rights to the work. That meant developers were excluded from receiving any royalties resulting from profits Yahoo!-GeoCities may make on homesteader sites.

Web developers were quick to criticize the rules, saying they thought it was unfair that the company could profit from their work while they would receive no compensation. Members were also upset by the fact that they were unable to remove their content or make changes to their sites without first accepting the revised terms of service.

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