Here are my musings as someone who has to deal with copyright on a daily basis in the software world.
A cursory review of the property rights in the terms of service ToS suggests that the author retains ownership. This is clear.
The ToS also says that E2 (whomever that legal entity is) retains the right to the content on E2. It is probably necessary at some point to say what/who E2 is and to whom rights have been granted. But even so, this is not truly concerning.
The troubling part is the few words "and you authorize others to do so". I posit this contradicts the prior statement. It suggests, for instance, that for anything I put on E2 I explicitly grant to unnamed "others" to take and publish the work, even commercially. I would move for those words be stricken. While I want to retain rights myself, and while I implicitly grant use rights to the legal entity E2 (again - whatever it is), I am not granting commercial rights to "others" in any way by noding.
Now - one could ask, why would I post anything on E2 in the first place - and don't I know that anything I put here is at risk of being "stolen" (if such a thing is possible) as it would if I had written it on the sidewalk in front of a grocery store. And the answer is that any reasonable person would imagine that is a tangible and acceptable risk. So perhaps such property rights discussion is moot, in any case.
Per the ToS, though, I suggest the following - say I post a missive on E2. I retain rights. E2 can sell/fold/spindle/mutilate my work as it sees fit for its own profit. I am clearly interacting with E2 and not, say, Random House (irrespective of my egotistical desires). So the contract is between me and whatever is E2 (please, someone needs to define E2 in legal terms) and it would seem reasonable that if E2 were to publish a hardcopy version of its node content that included my work, I'd be notified even though no such agreement is explicit in the ToS. I suggest words to that effect be added.
But what if E2 decided to publish and sell hardcopy version of my nodes exclusively? According to the ToS it can do that.
And further, what if I choose to delete my work as did several noders for the expressed purpose of withdrawing the work and all rights? Say I want to do this for the purpose of selling it for my own gain, which I have done in the past. Who owns the bits on the hard disk backup?
I suggest this is no different than someone who publishes an article in a magazine and then later sells the right to a book company to distribute as an anthology. Can Stephen King withdraw the stories he published in Playboy decades ago? No. But are they still in circulation -- also no. So withdrawl from E2 might also imply a desire to take that work out of circulation even though they may still exist in backups. Then can E2 restore the DB from backups without violating the authors rights? What if those nodes have been sold and are published by a book company? Would E2 be running afoul of said book company>?
In the end, what are the real risks or damages any of us could suffer that are greater than would already be the case with posting on E2? It seems to me the safest prospect for any author in this muddy scenario is to simply cease to put ones work on E2, or anywhere else on the public internet for that matter. And that is perhaps the greatest risk. Those who worry about copyright will simply not node here. Perhaps that's already happening.
For E2, even a ToS won't protect it from lawsuits if one of us becomes a really big name and tries to expunge the historical record. The cost of such cases alone would guarantee victory for the plaintiff, and that would be the end of E2. But that is already a possibility.
So the ToS really doesn't mean anything, except that E2 can sell space to companies who want there to be a ToS in place before they agree to the business.
I agree wholeheartedly with tifrap
s raised issue - that of attribution. For instance, I have made six trips to various locations on the continent of Antarctica at U.S. taxpayer expense. As an explicit part of this deal the U.S. National Science Foundation
takes ownership of any writing or photographs I produce while on this taxpayer funded excursion. However, they explicitly allow me, as producer of said work, the perpetual right of attribution.
So, if you were to type in my name juxtaposed with "Antarctica" into the Google website, it would return with numerous web locations, most of which were the sanctioned use of a particular photograph. That photograph is one I took while walking alone between Lake Fryxell and Lake Hoare camps in the Taylor Valley in Antarctica. The photo was taken while standing on the ice surface of Lake Fryxell, looking toward the Canada Glacier.
The picture forever resides in the USAP and NSF databases and they are free to distribute it without my consent. However, anyone reproducing that photo must attribute both NSF and me by name. And when I say "must" I say it because the NSF does not release the full-sized photo to anyone who does not agree to their ToS.
From the volume of attribution I receive I presume this reproduction is happening all the time. For instance, my photo was used on the cover of the NSF Holiday Card some years back. A large reproduction hangs in the NSF HQ in Washington DC as well as in USAP HQ in Denver. It has been used by major news outlets like AP and various and sundry newspapers across the U.S. as well as internationally.
I have never been paid a cent for the photo, but I have been attributed. This is not to say "theft" has not occurred outside the NSF ToS, though Lord knows how you steal something that doesn't carry with it a price or other easily extracted rights. But it does mean that for people who agree to the ToS I am attributed. This is to say that large media outlets and other respectable registered businesses in various countries do attribute me as the photographer. And truthfully, they're the outlets with the credibility and I am pleased to have my name associated with the work via their conduit. In addition, if someone were to see my photo without attribution, given how ubiquitous it is via the credible services, they might actually recognize it as mine due to the attribution rule, dutifully followed by respectable outlets.
Now, here at E2 I wonder how attribution could be followed. Generally, we all are writing here under a nom d' plume, and so attribution would be, one suspects, to that name. Unlike the NSF who needed my passport information to do the FBI checks necessary for me to qualify for Antarctic service, nobody at E2 can be truly certain I have provided my name anywhere on this site. So I can only be known to them as iceowl.
I would posit, though, that attributing any of my work to iceowl in a separate publication stream by E2 in a yet-to-be-determined for-profit scheme in which I do not take part would implicitly be enough for me as a writer. If that were not the case I would never write anything here.
Bottom line - Author beware. Put nothing on E2 for which you wish to retain full ownership. It's that simple. And for most people, I suspect it's a non-issue.