Reading the fine print

I don't know how many of you read the fine print when you sign up for things .. erm ... I generally don't. I used to, but always found them to be draconian terms of enslavement that that basically said they have all the power and rights and you have none, forever, in perpetuity.

Recently I decided to read the Google terms of service, after all, I use Google to blog (Blogger is owned by Google), I have a gmail account, I have considered using their online office applications to store documents - leaving storage and backup to them (I reckon they are likely to be better at it than I am).

Section 11 starts off promising enough:

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

I own the rights to all the content (intellectual property) I post, store or transmit (e-mail) using Google services and tools.

Then it goes downhill:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

I may own whatever I post, store, or transmit through Google services, but Google gets a perpetual royalty-free license to do as they please with any and all of that material.

For most people, that probably doesn't matter, since banal chatter about my hernia is not likely to attract much interest, but perhaps discussion about my lint-ball collection might find its way into Google's Index to Weird Hobbies, when I really wished it hadn't.

If I post a photo I took in my blog and it becomes viral, being the entrepreneurial person I am (ok, that I am working to be), I decide to sell it. Ah, but Google has already been granted perpetual rights to do what it likes with it - like giving it away for free, or modifying it and using it to advertise / generate revenue for Google, printing t-shirts to give away, etc - all without obligation to you.

Perhaps I post a few stories about Flodour the Whiny Canine and it becomes insanely popular. Again, Google has the right to adapt and modify, which sounds a lot like granting them the right to create derivative works

Finally, it concludes:

This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

This limits the scope of using your work solely for the benefit of promoting Google. Ok, I didn't really expect them to use it to benefit Microsoft.

And while this is Google's general Terms of Service, other Google services may have other terms that override this one.

For the average person (and that includes me), the Terms of Service probably don't matter a whole lot. However, for someone who makes their living off the content they produce, they should exercise prudence in what they post.


Barbara Martin said…
A wise warning indeed.
ingrid said…
Richard said…
barbara: well, we should always read and understand any contracts or agreements we are agreeing to, but, in most cases, people don't because (1) it is boring and (2) so draconian that it is likely unenforceable . However, Google's terms are quite probably quite legally acceptable.

ingrid: it certainly makes me want to reconsider my use of Google for anything I may wish to retain exclusive rights to. Granted, post anything on the web and you have basically lost control of it anyway.
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