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CNET News.com: On the Net, there is such a thing as free labor

“A growing number of Internet companies, including Netscape,
Lycos, and Deja.com, are using volunteers instead of salaried staff
to build their content directories. … America Online is one
company that may pay the price: It faces a class-action suit and
Department of Labor scrutiny over its use of volunteer ‘Community
Leader’ guides on its proprietary service.”

“Last November, Netscape jump-started the trend when it acquired
a small user-generated Web directory called NewHoo. Similar to
Yahoo’s offering, the idea behind NewHoo–which Netscape renamed
the Open Directory Project–was to create a Web search directory
using human editorial judgment instead of technology.”

“According to labor attorney Victor Van Bourg, workers deemed
‘volunteers’ contribute labor to government organizations,
charities, and nonprofits–not to companies. ‘There’s no such
thing as volunteers for other companies,’
Van Bourg said.
‘That’s called slavery.’ “

” ‘People contributing to sites, directories, and content areas
on the Internet are the DNA of the Internet,’ a Netscape spokesman
said. ‘Open Directory is an incredible project that illustrates the
power of the Web and people taking control of their Internet
experience.’

Like Linux or Apache, two software movements that solicit
outside software developers to improve the products, Netscape
said its Open Directory Project is another example of using the Web
to advance innovation.
The Open Directory Project has grown
from 100,000 sites with 4,500 contributing editors when Netscape
acquired NewHoo to more than 900,000 Web sites and more than 15,000
editors, Netscape said. … Netscape also has decided to license
its Open Directory to companies for free.”

Complete
Story