Yahoo turned heads across the tech community this week with the announcement of an ambitious $1.1 billion acquisition of popular social media platform Tumblr. As the two sides sort out the logistics of their impending partnership, the more than 100 million users who currently host blogs on Tumblr are anxiously awaiting potential changes to the site's copyright rules.
Yahoo's Tumblr deal shares several key parallels with its 1999 acquisition of web hosting specialist GeoCities, according to The New York Times. If the past is indeed prologue in this instance, a number of Tumblr users are anticipating significant shifts in content ownership and advertising policies designed to limit liability and increase revenue for Yahoo. As a result, WordPress reportedly saw Tumblr users migrating their blogs over to the competitor's platform at a rate of more than 70,000 per hour once news of the Yahoo deal broke.
According to Managing IP, Tumblr has been traditionally regarded as a relatively harmless copyright haven with users encouraged to post and share multimedia content from external sources. However, as the website has grown in popularity, Tumblr executives have started facing more pointed royalty management inquiries in addition to several lawsuits regarding their lax enforcement policies.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act safe harbor clauses protect sites like Tumblr which host primarily user-generated content, asking only that administrators respond to infringement inquiries and takedown requests in a timely manner. But as Yahoo attempts to legitimize and commercialize its latest social media asset, policy updates are likely unavoidable as competitors start to take a keener interest in the integrity of the site's content strategy.