Google Chrome is Bad for Writers & Bloggers

So Google has released a new browser called Chrome. But I’ll never use it. And it’s because Chrome’s EULA wishes to take anything that I type into my browser window (which would include, ahem, this blog entry, any email I access through the Web, and just about anything else involving the Internet) and give it to Google for them to use for any purpose. From the EULA:

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.

I should note that “Services” is defined as “your use of Google’s products, software, services, and web sites,” but this is, to say the least, disingenuous. Anyone who uses Chrome will technically own the copyright, but who needs copyright when the Chrome user effectively gives up her right to distribute this content in all perpetuity and without royalties? So if Joyce Carol Oates is using Chrome and types an email to someone, she “owns” the copyright. But Google has the right to use anything that Ms. Oates types into Chrome for any purpose. And if someone reveals highly personal information through Chrome — like, say, the details of one’s sex life, an early draft of a novel, or some very embarrassing incident — Google has the right to reprint this anywhere. And not only do they get to reprint this content, but they can likewise generate revenue from it. Revenue that should, by all rights, go to the person who authored the content in the first place.

You have to hand it to Google. They’ve hit upon a way to take what’s out there on the Web, monetize the content for their own purpose while screwing over the person who labored over the words. Will we see new clauses in publishing contracts contain provisos requesting authors not to use Google Chrome as a web browser? After all, if Google can reprint it, this pretty much eliminates intellectual property rights.

Is this Google’s crafty way of getting around all the YouTube lawsuits and angry publishers? After all, if the content was submitted through Google Chrome, well, Google can reuse it. So if Stephenie Meyer slips up again and she was using Chrome, well, she’ll have no grievance against Google when Google “reprints” it for its “Services.”

So use Google Chrome if you’re perfectly happy watching your words taken by Google. Use Google Chrome if you don’t value your work.

[UPDATE: Based on the public outcry, Google has amended Section 11.1 of the EULA to read as follows:

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.

The offending sentence has been removed. It’s very heartening to see that Google takes these concerns seriously. And because of this, I shall probably take Chrome for a test drive sometime this weekend.]


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  2. It looks like a standard copy/paste license from most (if not all) user generated content sites.

    These are law (I think) for UGC sites/systems where hosting of UGC content is used.

    Also, the clause usually only permits use of content for promotional purposes of the ‘Services’ only (though the ‘Additional Terms’ are noted).

  3. This is the Goog’s standard clause for ALL of their services. Doesn’t matter if you’re using Chrome, Firefox, IE or some strange browser you’ve cobbled together on a heavily modded Atari 2600.

    When you post or use ANY of Goog’s online services you’re granting them that license. But if you look at the final line of the clause, the license is for the sole purpose of enabling the Goog to display, distribute and promote the Services.

    Really – I think Goog’s bottom line is doing well enough that they won’t resort to reprinting your sultry emailed affairs, or nabbing that first draft you typed up in Docs to turn a buck.

  4. Ummm…how many of you have gmail addresses…lol. Guess what, same deal applies. It all goes to the Google philosophy of making everything freely available. Do first, ask questions later mentality.

    You can’t get something for nothing nowadays my friend.

  5. Essentially the same terms are already in the Google products Blogger and The real question is whether the additional terms for Chrome contain a better distribution statement, because the additional terms can override the general terms.

    From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense: this covers the Internet as a store-and-forward network, something that must be taken into account if you’re going to get any kind of legal coverage. I don’t know of better wording out there, but it’s not something I spend a lot of time on.

    I think the out–and I Am Not A Lawyer–is this phrase: “This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services”. If you can argue that the use of content was for some other purpose than the distribution or promotion of the Google service, you might have a leg to stand on. Of course, we don’t know what Google will do with it, but I suspect anything complete enough to be worth stealing will also be about something else than the Google service.

  6. OK, but the source code to Chrome is released under the BSD license, which is about the most liberal licensing arrangement that exists. So does that mean that if I compile a copy of Chrome from source code, and give it to you, then you’re not granting Google the right to publish anything you submit through that copy?

    I’m guessing, as other commenters have said above, that this is simply a mistake on Google’s part, and that it will be removed in an upcoming release, since it’s hard to fathom why they would leave such an odd loophole.

  7. Some people are reassured that Google can use what you post using Chrome “only for promotional purposes.” I fail to be impressed. Google can claim that ANY material it decides to grab is for promotional purposes; by the time you fight it out in court against Google’s high-paid laywers, it’s already all over the Web and irrevocable.

    I am never using Chrome.

  8. Hi folks,

    I work for Google, and though I’m not affiliated with the Chrome team I was just as worried about this when I heard about it as you were, so I looked into it a bit. Put simply, Nat’s right: we goofed, and we’re fixing it. Here’s an official statement from Rebecca Ward, who’s the Senior Product Counsel for Chrome:

    In order to keep things simple for our users, we try to use the same set of legal terms (our Universal Terms of Service) for many of our products. Sometimes, as in the case of Google Chrome, this means that the legal terms for a specific product may include terms that don’t apply well to the use of that product. We are working quickly to remove language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service. This change will apply retroactively to all users who have downloaded Google Chrome.

    I know that’s a bit vague on the details, and although obviously I’d love it if you’d take me at my word that we really truly aren’t trying to steal your content and that we are not going to leave in a section allowing us to do so, I don’t know exactly what language will be removed or when the new EULA will be up. As you’re probably aware, any change to the mystical lawyerese has to be checked and rechecked and approved by umpteen different people before it goes live (there might be chanting and holy water involved in there somewhere), and that’s likely why the specific nature of the changes aren’t stated in the statement I just quoted. Since I’m not part of Google’s legal team (I’m just a software engineer), they probably wouldn’t welcome my making promises on behalf of the company, but suffice it to say that a lot of us do things on the Internet too when we’re not at work, and we don’t like the idea of granting anyone else a perpetual license to those things any more than you do.

    Thanks to everyone who’s brought this to light — whether or not you think we’re evil, we don’t want to live in a world where people have to take a company’s word for it that they won’t steal their work. Speaking up is the right thing to do, and I hope our response to this will help encourage more of the same. 🙂

    Brian Ellis

  9. There appear to be a LOT of drama llama’s in the audience tonight.

    Boiler plate stuff from a web service got into their EULA… and you are freaking out? Did you even READ the clause?

    This is really a case of seeing what you want to see, and you are chosing to freak out over something that isn’t even a problem… christ.

  10. beyond the already intrusive cookies, google ‘free’ apps and toolbars already extrusively ‘phone home’ and send data and reports back to google without the user’s permission or knowledge. they are buried deep in root files and automatically send personal and browsing data back to google. this just cements google’s complete dedication to owning all personal information of web users and proof of their commitment to invasion of privacy.

    did you know one of google’s founders is russian btw?

  11. No it is very very safe for SEO point of view because no one can read web source easily and it start more struggle to be some one competitor

  12. Yeah, it sounds like “much ado about nothing” until you’ve been one of the people who learned the hard way that as a general rule companies who write these kinds of rights grabs into their licenses have reasons – usually undisclosed.

    Back when I was taking business law classes a prof told us “if a man insists on having the right to scr*w you written into a contract, ignore anything he says. He means to scr*w you at the earliest profitable opportunity.”

    There’s a google guy up above says it was a mistake, and while I’m perfectly willing to take his word for that, I will also refrain from looking at the browser until it’s fixed, just as a way of looking out for my own interests.

    If you’re a writer or a blogger or a “content creator” in today’s world, you’re a mouse running loose in Jurassic Park. Paranoia isn’t “drama” – it’s survival.

    So far he’s never been wrong in the last 30 years.

  13. It’s worth noting that the EULA is largely unenforceable because the source code of Chrome is distributed under an open license. Users could simply download the source code, compile it themselves, and use it without having to agree to Google’s EULA. The terms of the BSD license under which the source code is distributed are highly permissive and impose virtually no conditions or requirements on end users.

  14. Yes, Google has fixed this. These new excerpts from the terms for Google Chrome are more reassuring:

    8.4 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.

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

  15. Holy crap! I’m using Chrome right now! I’d better put a copyright right now…
    (C)This content is copyrighted by David Phillips.
    And I’m closing chrome right…

  16. Man! I’m using Chrome right now! I’d better put a copyright right now…
    (C)Copyright 2010 David Phillips
    And I’m closing Chrome right…

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