Why Do the Digerati Use AIM, AOL’s Evil Instant Messenger Client?

My instant messenger use has been increasing again. So far, it hasn’t become a drain on my productivity, but I realize the risk is there and that’s why I scaled back my usage a while ago. In fact the connectivity makes me more productive in some ways. For instance I’ve been chatting online a lot more with a lot of the 1337 digerati who have been attending the conferences that I have been event blogging lately and have been getting a lot of great feedback on that idea.

I’ve noticed as I add more of these new uber-connected friends like Lee, Travis, Niall, Jason, Nick, Jason, Suw, Stowe, and Boris to my Trillian instant messaging client that many of the new contacts I’ve added are using AOL’s AIM as their preferred client. I didn’t get it at first… after all, this is a very ‘open web’ group, not usually people I’d expect to find hanging out in AOL’s walled garden. Why are they using AIM I kept asking? It turns out that iChat integration for their Macs is one of the biggest reasons.

Fair enough, but did you realize that everything you say while using AIM, AOL has the right to reproduce without your consent and owns any derivative works made from ‘the content’? Hmmm. I’m serious. Check it out.

I mean, we do read these things we click on and agree to when we sign up right?

Although you or the owner of the Content retain ownership of all right, title and interest in Content that you post to any AIM Product, AOL owns all right, title and interest in any compilation, collective work or other derivative work created by AOL using or incorporating this Content. In addition, by posting Content on an AIM Product, you grant AOL, its parent, affiliates, subsidiaries, assigns, agents and licensees the irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide right to reproduce, display, perform, distribute, adapt and promote this Content in any medium. You waive any right to privacy. You waive any right to inspect or approve uses of the Content or to be compensated for any such uses.

Now my blego isn’t nearly big enough to think that AOL is spending any time or money worrying about what I’m saying online, but it seems like folks should be aware of this at least and probably talking more about it.

I actually didn’t know this until today when Mobius posted about it over at Orthodox Anarchist. Are any of the other IM clients (MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, etc) terms of use different? Is this just the cost of doing business and using a mainstream and popular instant messaging client? Are contracts like this binding? If they steal your idea, can you sue them or have really waived your rights to privacy and ownership of your conversations and ideas?