Hubbub over content rights greets Google Drive

Posted: April 28, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — Google chief executive Larry Page recently wrote that he hoped to show that the company was “deserving of great love.” But the Internet search leader may need to win more trust, based on the suspicions swirling around Google Drive, a new online storage service for personal documents, photos, and other content.

Within a few hours of Google Drive’s Tuesday debut, technology blogs and Twitter users were pouncing on a legal clause in the “terms of service” that could be interpreted to mean that any content stored in Google Drive would automatically become Google Inc.’s intellectual property.

The confusion centered on a passage advising that anyone uploading or submitting content to Google Drive would grant Google “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.”

As it turns out, the worries are probably unfounded.

Google says the language is actually standard legalese that gives the company the licensing rights it needs to deliver on services that users request.

Even everyday occurrences such as someone watching a video or pulling up a text file at an Internet cafe requires Google to retain permission to “publicly perform” or “publicly display” such content.

“Our terms of service,” Google said in a statement, “enable us to give you the services you want — so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can.”

The hubbub may do some good, possibly prodding more people to read the rules governing Internet services such as Google Drive more carefully before signing up, says Corynne McSherry, an intellectual-property lawyer.

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