The latest Google debacle du jour didn’t last long. But it was meaningful. It turns out there are people (like us?) out there who actually read the Terms of Service on nifty little things like a new browser release, i.e. Google’s Chrome. I only wonder with what they’ve fortified themselves before sitting down to the task. Right, right — coffee. Sure.
Anyway, someone didn’t fall asleep before reaching Section 11 and noticed that it stated that the user gave Google rights to any content “submitted, posted or displayed on or through” the Chrome browser. There was a petite scandale on the blogs and Google, to their credit, immediately fixed the oversite. Their apology and explanation is on the Official Google blog.
As anyone who has to read — or worse, write — licenses for a living knows, the cut-and-paste function was created solely to preserve one’s sanity. I mean, when someone builds a new car, they don’t invent the wheel all over again. So, as someone who has had to say “oops” and do a re-write, I’m kinda sympathetic. On the other hand, I don’t make what Google employees make, and I certainly don’t get free espresso, sushi, video games, and a yoga corner in which to get in touch with my inner self. Or whatever they still get in these hard times. So if I slip up, it’s obviously for lack of yoga, not for lack of attention to the task.
But the point is, this event creates an opportunity to ponder that existential question, who owns what online? Read Google’s explanation carefully. “This section is included because, 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.” Likewise, to post to this blog, I need to give WordPress a license to transmit my scintillatingly original / crashingly boring scribblings. It’s like giving a publisher rights to publish your writing, except that a publishing contract almost always has a date somewhere out there in the future on which the rights will revert to the author. On the web, it’s …forever?
Now, think about Facebook. Same thing. Feeling uncomfortable yet?