Billy Bragg's highly publicized campaign against MySpace's crummy, grabby terms of service has been successful. MySpace has revised its terms so that musicians who upload to the site retain control of their works, and MySpace/NewsCorp/Fox can't sell those songs without contracting with the musicians.
Now that the popularity of downloading has made physical manufacturing and
distribution no longer necessary, the next generation of artists will not need to
surrender all of their rights in order to get their music into the marketplace. It is
therefore crucial that they understand, from the moment that they first post
music on the internet, the importance of retaining their long term right to
exploit the material that they create. This is doubly important on a networking
site where many of the songs posted will be by unsigned artists. Ownership of
the rights to such material is somewhat ambiguous. Thats why I hope that the
groundbreaking decision of MySpace to come down on the side of the artists
rights will be followed throughout the industry.
I also welcome the new wording of the terms and conditions in which MySpace
clarify exactly why they require specific rights and how they intend to use them.
Again, I hope more sites follow the lead of MySpace in ensuring the use of clear
and transparent language in contracts. The last thing any of us wants to see is a
situation in which everyone posting a song on the site has to have a lawyer
sitting next to them.