Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Panic over Twitter's "New" Terms of Service Is Unjustified

Twitter has made some changes to its Terms for users outside the US, effective October 2, 2017. It caused a number of users to notice and bring attention to an old clause that gives Twitter a free license over all content posted by users. Specifically, the controversial provision states that, "You agree that this license includes the right for Twitter to... make Content submitted to or through the Services available to other companies, organizations or individuals for the syndication, broadcast, distribution, promotion or publication of such Content on other media and services... with no compensation paid to you with respect to the Content that you submit, post, transmit or otherwise make available through the Services."

Users who post original content started worrying that they will lose some rights to their content. However, the uproar is disproportional to the actual danger.

First of all, it's not a new clause.  It has been effective since 2009.

Second, this clause does not take away users' rights to their content. It gives Twitter a license to republish the content but the ownership of the content remains with the user. Twitter needs that license in order to be able to publicly display tweets and offer embedded tweets to others for promotion and distribution. E.g., anybody who wants to embed a tweet.

So, what is actually new in the Terms that become effective in October? User-friendly things, actually. Specifically:

- Twitter gets the right to remove content not just for intellectual property violations, but also for things like impersonation, unlawful conduct and harassment.
- Unlawful conduct is not grounds for account termination (it has always been this way anyway, but the new Terms spell it out better).
- Added a clause that explains how to appeal against account termination.
- The limitation of liability clause has been curtailed. Various disclaimers of liabilities have been removed, to the users' benefit.
- Twitter must now notify users of changes to the Terms 30 days in advance.

You can see the changes side-by-side here.

So, the panic over the "new" Terms is unjustified. New changes are for the users' benefit.