Google Drive

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I posted on Twitter a link to an article on CNet about the terms of service for Google Drive.  There was a hubbub about this part of the ToS.

Your Content in our Services: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

The rights that you grant in this licence are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This licence continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps).”

Later on in the ToS it states

“Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

Google has responded to this stating

Google says the language is actually standard legalese that gives the company the licensing rights it needs to deliver on services that users’ request.

The way Google keeps documents in its data centers requires the company to obtain a license to “host, store (and) reproduce” the files. If, say, a screenwriter in China uses Google’s services to collaborate on a movie script written in Mandarin with a script editor in Hollywood who only reads English, Google needs the rights for “translations, adaptations or other changes” to allow the two writers to work on the document in different languages and make revisions.

First off, the original ToS.

host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content

The words that don’t have problems “host, store, communicate”.  Words that have problems? “modify, create derivative works, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute”

“Modify” is a problem because copyright applies only to a certain extent.  If you modify something based off of another work you can claim ownership if it’s a certain percentage different.  Take, for example music (which is where most of my examples will come from).  You cannot copyright parts of lyrics, only lyrics as a whole.  Same with music.  I cannot copyright a chord progression.  If Google can modify your content there is a point where you may lose control of it because it is dissimilar enough.

“Create derivative works”.  This could be taken like doing a cover of someone’s song.  If you’re getting paid, that may not be a bad thing, but you don’t have control over it.

“Publish”.  Means, according to Webster “to make generally known, to make public announcement of, to disseminate to the public, to produce or release for distribution; specifically : print, issue the work of (an author)”.  This coincides with “publicly perform and display”.  In other words, Google can take what you provided as private, make it public and you have no recourse.

And when Google says “you still retain your intellectual property rights” I say “hooey”.  If you are a musician and you join a Performing Rights Organization you retain all of your intellectual property.  However you lose ALL control of your works.  Now in the case of the musician that’s not a bad thing because the PRO also pays you for when people use your music.  It may not be much you do get paid and you really do want you stuff out there.  However, with Google you lose all of the rights and gain nothing except access to Google’s services for content that you very well may want to keep out of public hands, which is exactly what these ToS allow.

In other words Google’s assurances about intellectual property is moot because while Google will not “own” your content it does have complete control to do whatever they deem necessary.  And THAT is the problem and the reason why I won’t be using it any time soon.

On the internet we live our lives in a software as a service environment.  I am sure that I have agreed to something somewhere that requires me to bend over and take it like a man.  But with so many services we need to be paying more attention to the ToS for various sites and being mindful of what we put there.  And perhaps with increased competition organizations will provide ToS that provide the user with more control over their content.

The first step in “not being evil” is restricting your ability to be so.

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