The internet is full of unlikely heroes, but left-wing pop-folk singer Billy Bragg is probably one of the most unlikely you could encounter.

Believe it or not, the man who once sang "I was a docker, I was a miner", is now also a pioneer in the battle for users' rights online.

He took on The Man, in the shape of globally-huge music and social networking site - and he won.

To start the story let's go back to the beginnings of MySpace. It began as a social networking site back in 2003, and rapidly became hugely popular.

Every MySpace user has a page of their own that they can use almost how they like; it's incredibly easy to post short text updates, photos, or even video and audio clips.

The promise of that last feature led to MySpace being used by musicians to share and display their work.

The site was also popular because the user pages (profiles) were easy to customise, resulting in thousands of garishly-decorated web pages with bright colour backgrounds. Popular with the youngsters, but baffling to the internet's old guard.

MySpace took off because it was a virtual place for young people to "hang out". Once all your friends are on MySpace, you can keep an eye on what they are doing.

If your favourite bands are on their too (and most bands are these days), it's simple to keep up-to-date with song releases, tour dates and gossip.

For the iPod generation, this combination of pop culture and petty gossip was enticing, and the kids signed up in their millions.

Enter Billy Bragg. Like most popular musicians wanting to stay in touch with their fans, he (or his management) knew that having a MySpace profile was essential. But there was a problem.

Buried deep in the small print users are supposed to read (but rarely do) before signing up for an account, Bragg discovered the following words:

"You hereby grant to a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide licence (with the right to sublicence through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute such content on and through the services."

Horrified, he realised that simply by making his songs available on his profile page using the MySpace embedded audio player, he was handing over his rights to MySpace and it's parent company, News Corporation.

Bragg swiftly switched off the player and started a campaign to force a change to the terms and conditions.

Within a month, MySpace acted and changed the wording, which now made it very plain that users' content belonged to them, not to MySpace.

The campaign gained plenty of support in the MySpace community and even attracted interest from beyond. The successful resolution of the dispute showed Billy Bragg as an astute businessman and wise protector of his creative rights; it also showed that sometimes, even the biggest of big players are prepared to listen to what their users want, and change if necessary.

* Giles Turnbull has a web-site at