You have invested hours into developing your on-line persona. Your blog has dozens of links and hundreds of followers. Your facebook page is tied to hundreds of friends. Your Twitter account had a thousand followers. However, how secure are you in your on-line persona? What rights do you have to this identity?
Before you develop a false sense of permanency in this illusory world — read the terms of service. You may be very surprised by what few rights you have. This is what Danah Boyd learned when she woke up to find her Tumblr blog gone and another company using her blog name at the same address. She says on her new blog:
All are moved to a new URL, breaking everyone’s links to content that I had on the site and giving me no choice in this process. And a company who also uses the name zephoria is now posting at that Tumblr page (and seems to have been for the last two days). Tumblr did not notify me. And while their ToS [Terms of Service] says that they will, it also says that Tumblr “reserves the right to remove any Subscriber Content from the Site, suspend or terminate Subscriber’s right to use the Services at any time…”
Danah suspects that another company claimed a trademark right to the name she used and Tumblr, without giving her notice or a right to dispute the claim, transferred the account.
If your handle and blog name and images and other online content is important to you, consider traditional forms of protection such as trademarks and copyrights. The more valuable your on-line persona becomes the more you need to consider taking steps to protect it…and….read the terms of service.
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