Sunday, September 7, 2008
Making terms of service clearer
"... Under copyright law, Google needs what's called a "license" to display or transmit content. So to show a blog, we ask the user to give us a license to the blog's content. (The same goes for any other service where users can create content.) But in all these cases, the license is limited to providing the service."
We've also some seen discussion on a few blogs about how our universal terms of service apply to other products, with some users worried that Google is trying to claim ownership of the content they generate. To be clear: our terms do not claim ownership of your content -- what you create is yours and remains yours. But in lawyer-speak, we need to ask for a 'license' (which basically means your permission) to display this content to the wider world when that's what you intend. This issue is not unique to Google; it applies to lots of other Internet companies that display and transmit user content. You can see some other terms of service here from Amazon, eBay, and Facebook.
In some of our products, such as Gmail and Google Docs, we have included additional terms to make it clear that we do not claim ownership of the content. But even without those additional clarifications, we still wouldn't be claiming ownership of your content -- just a license that gives us your permission to use the content to provide the service. The additional terms are there to reassure our users that they still own their own content, even after giving us the permission we need to help them share and collaborate with others, whether via Gmail, Blogger, YouTube, Google Docs, or other services.
Because, in the end, that's what's most important: making sure you're comfortable using our services to share, publish, and store your stuff. We'll continue to look at our terms of service to make them as clear and user-friendly as possible, because at the end of the day if you're not comfortable, our products won't succeed -- and we know it.
Posted by Mike Yang, Senior Product Counsel