Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Misinformation about Google's Chrome EULA

Adam Frucci at Gizmodo writes:
So, are you enjoying the snappy, clean performance of Google Chrome since downloading yesterday? If so, you might want to take a closer peek at the end user license agreement you didn't pay any attention to when downloading and installing it. Because according to what you agreed to, Google owns everything you publish and create while using Chrome. Ah-whaaa?
This is false. The EULA doesn't transfer ownership of anything. The provision that has everyone upset is the rather broadly worded provision 11.1:
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. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license 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. This license 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.
Note that the very first sentence says that you retain all intellectual property rights. This gives Google the rights to do the things it already does--let other people play YouTube videos you upload, syndicate your Blogger content, store cached versions of your web pages, allow people to see versions of your web pages translated into other languages, display thumbnails of images on your web pages in Google Images search, and so forth. The last sentence appears to limit it solely for the purpose "to display, distribute and promote the Services" and not allow them to, say, use your content in order to compete with you, undermine your intellectual property rights, etc.

An earlier provision in the EULA also makes this explicit:
9.4 Other than the limited license set forth in Section 11, Google acknowledges and agrees that it obtains no right, title or interest from you (or your licensors) under these Terms in or to any Content that you submit, post, transmit or display on, or through, the Services, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in that Content (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist). Unless you have agreed otherwise in writing with Google, you agree that you are responsible for protecting and enforcing those rights and that Google has no obligation to do so on your behalf.
So even if 11.1 is a bit too broad, there's this provision to fall back on if you feel your intellectual property rights are being infringed.

Some commenters at Gizmodo said that they didn't agree with this provision and therefore have uninstalled the software, but that's not sufficient to terminate this agreement. Terminating the agreement requires you to give notice to Google in writing and close all of your accounts with them:
13.2 If you want to terminate your legal agreement with Google, you may do so by (a) notifying Google at any time and (b) closing your accounts for all of the Services which you use, where Google has made this option available to you. Your notice should be sent, in writing, to Google’s address which is set out at the beginning of these Terms.
One thing that is clear from these terms is that Google definitely wants to interpose itself between user and content in a manner similar to what Microsoft has done for years with Windows, and in a much stickier way than telecom providers are between user and content. If you have network neutrality concerns about telecom providers or had antitrust concerns about Microsoft's bundling of the Internet Explorer web browser with Windows, you should probably have similar concerns about Google, given the way use of its browser is bundled with an EULA covering all of its services. Shouldn't I be able to discontinue this EULA by getting rid of the browser, and not by terminating all of my accounts with Google? Will there be a lawsuit about unbundling the Google Chrome browser from the rest of its services?

UPDATE: Ars Technica reports that Google says this was an error and they will be correcting the license, which was borrowed from other Google services, apparently without careful review. It also notes that since Chrome is distributed under an open license, users can download the source code and compile it themselves without being bound by the agreement.

The major flaw in the 11.1 language is that it gives Google the right to publish content you merely "display" in the browser, even if it's private content on a local server or restricted content from a secured website. That clearly wasn't their intent, but that's an implication of how it was written.

1 comment:

Frank said...

Thanks for clearing that up Jim