Google Drive controversy

Google Drive

Google has found themselves at the centre of yet another furore over ownership of intellectual property. The release of the new Google Drive file storage service has been met with suspicion and trepidation rather than celebrations.

The New Zealand Herald reported in their article Google Drive prompts intellectual property fears that Twitter users went straight out and remonstrated Google Drive’s phrasing in their “terms and services” that indicated that if you stored any content in Google Drive, it would automatically become Google’s intellectual property.

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

It comes as no surprise that people reacted strongly to this and questioned Google’s intentions. Would people’s personal information; photos; resumes; professional files, become the intellectual property of Google for the company to do whatever it wanted with. Would your picture suddenly show up on a Google sponsored advertisement?

I went into Google’s Terms and Services to see if I could find this ambiguous wording and I was in fact very impressed with the lengths they have gone to, to explain their services. I did find the offending passage under the heading “Your content in our Services”. I agree it does sound like the rights to your content are now legally available to Google. It is however, preceded by the sentence,

“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.”

When questioned, Google went on to explain reasons why they have worded their terms the way they have as it allows for people working together to edit and share work, and have Google translate the work if in different languages.

Looking further through the Privacy Policies, I felt they were clear and concise and user friendly.

I think that the initial uproar does highlight the sensitivity of both intellectual property ownership and the seemingly invasion of privacy conducted by Facebook. Google and other sites that seem to know who we are, what we like and when we are going to be online to read their junk mail.

The article, also reported on at CNN fits nicely into the readings and videos introduced in our COETAIL course. We are outraged at the thought of someone else having access to our intellectual property, and the apparent right to use it at their discretion. My main concern is not so much with the ownership issues as I don’t really have anything too fabulously important to protect (except my blog ideas), but more with the privacy of my identity should any site obtain my information and use it publicly.

Most probably, more has been made out of this misunderstanding than was necessary. But has Google given themselves a loophole to use a person’s work because they have in fact written that they have a license to it? Any interesting scenario to follow.



3 comments for “Google Drive controversy

  1. Avatar of sleonardis
    April 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    It’s no surprise that big companies like Google would use a blanket statements like that to ensure they can use your information. They just hope that the majority of people will just ignore the information and allow them to use your image freely. But who can blame them? They provide a service free of charge for you and they are just trying to get a little back. Sadly, it appears that everything comes at a cost.

    • Avatar of Michelle Lawgun
      April 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm

      Yep I agree, but I guess they do have the statement that clearly states that your intellectual property remains your own. Also, in Google Drive’s case it is only free up to 5GB, and after that you pay for the service. Maybe they would take off with the best 5GBs!!

  2. Avatar of Ben Thompson
    May 7, 2012 at 12:24 am

    I read Google’s Terms and Agreements for googlesites a few years and was under the impression that content produced in Google’s suite of apps like googlesites and google docs was not considered one’s own intellectual property. It seem clear at that time that Google was staking claims for all content created in its platforms. I advised my dad, who actually writes content that is truly intellectual, to avoid using Google for storing or displaying any of his work.

    Your find of this line is interesting: “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.”

    I wonder if that only applies to Google Drive or if it is a change in the Terms and Agreements since I looked at them closely a few years ago.

    The bottom line is, although I use it daily, I don’t trust Google. But like you, I don’t have anything “too fabulously important to protect.” It is the tracking and privacy that bugs me out.


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