The intellectual property question of ownership of material submitted to social media sites is heating up as corporate acquisition talks for YouTube and other startups catch fire....

Interestingly, you don't own the rights to material you submit to video contests, or to YouTube, but you do own the rights to coding you do at Second Life.
The market for real goods created from the digital objects coded in virtual reality could be enormous in a virtual world like Second Life, where the creators own the rights to the objects that they make, Michael Buckbee told Wired.
Robin Good says of participatory sites like YouTube, MySpace:

"While paying lip service to the democratic, free sharing of information, then, services like YouTube reserve the right to co-opt, edit, repackage and sell on the citizen produced media that they distribute. Likewise, sites such as MySpace gather information on their users to use in future marketing campaigns, or sell on to interested parties. The choice of which service you use to distribute your homemade productions can, then, have a huge impact on how they are accessed and who has control over them, not to mention the ways that they might be swamped in advertising, sidelined by sponsored content or used to promote products and services entirely beyond your control."

Good says the issue is corporate control of online media, but really, it's even bigger than that. The issue is reminiscent of the early days of recorded music, film and television, when artists signed contracts giving up their rights to the money earned from their creations. I'm constantly astounded at the quality work that people are willing to do for free in hopes of achieving a wide audience and the fame and fortune that can come with that (or not).
New media provides new tools that equal the playing field somewhat, allowing individuals to create remarkably professional videos and code, but the little guys still don't have access to legal advice to protect them from exploitation. Watch this one closely.

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Real Intellectual Property Issues Heating Up in Virtual Worlds

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B.L. Ochman is a social media marketing strategist for S&P 500 companies, including McGraw Hill, IBM, Cendant, and American Greetings. She publishes What's Next Blog and Ethics Crisis, where readers can confess their worst ethics transgressions and others can rate them on a scale of one to ten. She also blogs for MarketingProfs Daily Fix Blog.