Twitter ALWAYS Had a License to Use Your Content – and That’s OK
Twitter’s new Terms of Service for users outside the US will be effective from 2 October 2017,
Twitter’s new Terms of Service for users outside the US will be effective from 2 October 2017,(Photo Courtesy: Pixabay)

Twitter ALWAYS Had a License to Use Your Content – and That’s OK

Twitter recently published their new terms of service for users outside the US, and the Twitterverse pressed the panic button over supposedly new terms (effective from 2 October 2017) granting the company a license over all content posted by users on Twitter.

The uproar over this supposedly “grotesque”, “draconian” and “Instagram-esque” new provision spread quickly, and users swiftly directed their anger against Twitter in less-than-polite terms. All in all, it looked like significant backlash against the social media giant, based on well-justified anger.

But in truth, all this ire is entirely misplaced. Because even though those new Terms are coming into play, nothing has really changed.

License Provision Unchanged

As the French would say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

You see, that license provision that everyone is grumbling about? It’s not new.

It’s actually been around since Version 2 of Twitter’s Terms of Service, which have been effective since 10 September 2009. This particular provision has not changed in all the years since, except for minor formatting changes. It has not changed at all from the most recent version of the Terms (applicable since 30 September 2016) – that all these angry people were presumably perfectly fine with.

You can see a line-by-line comparison of the old and new terms below.

So basically, all those people who got worried thinking new unfavourable terms had been brought in, had not just jumped the gun, but opened up a portal across the galaxy from the gun and jumped through that.

Should We Be Concerned About This Anyway?

Of course, just because something’s been awful for years, doesn’t mean that we have to like it. But to be honest, this is a pretty boilerplate clause for social media content, and doesn’t actually take away the intellectual property rights of Twitter users.

Users will still own the rights to their content, and always have. Twitter only gets a license over content posted on Twitter, which doesn’t affect ownership at all – and that too, to the extent it is posted, submitted or displayed on Twitter. So if you publish an extract of a book on a Twitter post, you will retain your copyright over the book, and Twitter will only get a license to republish what’s in the extract, not the whole book.

Are Any Other Provisions Different?

There are some changes to the Terms of Service, but nothing that should raise alarm bells, and in fact they are mostly welcome changes.

  1. They have modified the provision giving them the right to remove content, expanding it from just being for intellectual property violations, to also include impersonation, unlawful conduct and harassment. This should help combat online harassment.
  2. There is also a change to the grounds for termination of an account to include unlawful conduct.
  3. There is also now an additional provision explaining how to appeal against termination of accounts, which is to the benefit of users who feel hard-done-by.
  4. The limitation of liability clause has also been modified, again to the benefit of users, by removing disclaimers of various liabilities.
  5. Lastly, the provision on notification of changes to the Terms has been strengthened - instead of just trying to notify users (which was the only previous requirement), they have now specified that changes will be notified 30 days in advance.

So to sum up, there’s nothing to be concerned about, and in fact we should be quite satisfied with these changes. Which is a remarkably rare thing in the world we live in.

We have run up a comparison of the new Terms of Service against the most recent one. You can see all the changes below:

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