MTV is expanding its fans’ virtual “playgrounds” by enabling avatar widgets for three of its online and virtual properties; partnering with Oddcast and using its Voki platform for the widgets (example below). MTV refers to its online environments as “thematic galleries” – an interesting concept in itself.
MTV hopes fans will use the customized, speaking avatars to interact with each other exchanging gossip and messages. Voki offers an impressive number of combinations of avatar features to allow for quite a bit of personalization – but the fun is adding the text-to-speech or synchronized recorded voice to deliver content via the avatar. (Warning:If you are going to browse some recently created avatars some of the audio content is very un-PG.)
MTV of course also hopes fans will place the avatars on their other online spaces, such as social networks, blogs, or other virtual environments. The availability of embed code is immediate upon creating your Voki avatar.
But way more importantly for MTV, is that they may be looking to these distributed avatars as an advertising channel.
Checking out the very-hard-to-find-until-you-create-your-MTV-avatar Voki terms of service, it appears you will be giving them the right to do just that.
I’ll not bore you with the TOS language (relevant portion posted below) but it basically says, we own you, your avatar, anything you record or create, and we can do anything we like with it – anywhere it is – without compensating you in any way if we do.
ClickZ reports that MTV banks on being able to eventually push messages directly to those distributed avatars.
It’s a little disturbing to think MTV may be planning to co-opt its fans by making it appear their avatar is endorsing something without their explicit permission nor endorsement. This takes “word of mouth” to a new level, I suppose.
I think it is a great idea to think about concentrating on the avatar, since it is the only constant in a sea of social spaces – indeed I’ve been advocating the idea for quite a while now. But I can’t say this particular kind of potential co-opting is a “best practice” I’d recommend jumping into. I sincerely hope MTV treads into these waters very carefully.
Social networks are just beginning to feel the restlessness of members, who are collectively coming to the realization that it is they who create the market value of the network. It is just a matter of time before they will be exerting that power, and perhaps the expectation of reaping at least some of the benefit.
I see another, bigger Beacon potentially brewing.
Voki Terms of Service
…you agree that any materials, including but not limited to questions, comments, suggestions, ideas, discoveries, plans, notes, drawings, arts, original or creative materials or other information, provided by you in the form of email or submissions to Oddcast, or postings at this Web Site, are non-confidential and shall become the sole property of Oddcast to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law. Oddcast shall own exclusive rights and shall be entitled to the unrestricted use of these materials for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without acknowledgment or additional compensation to you. In the event applicable law operates to prevent Oddcast from becoming the sole owner of any such property, then this provision shall be effective as granting to Oddcast (with unfettered rights of assignment) a perpetual, worldwide, paid-in-full, non-exclusive right (including any moral rights) and license to make, use, sell, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, communicate to the public, perform and display the content (in whole or in part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, for the full term of any rights that may exist in any such material.
April 30, 2008