Google has reassured web users that, despite fears expressed in some quarters, content uploaded to its new online-storage service Google Drive will not be automatically owned by the company. The California-based corporation said that materials held on the platform – which could extend to creative works such as novels, screenplays, film clips or visual art – would not be regarded as Google’s intellectual property (IP).
Following the launch of the facility on 24 April, technology bloggers and Twitter users raised concerns that Google’s overall terms of service – revised on 1 March – would naturally grant it use of, and access to, the digital artifacts submitted for storage. In particular, their arguments focused upon a passage in the terms that reads:
‘When you upload or otherwise submit content to our services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.’
However, Google stated that its goal was not to achieve ownership, but to provide convenience through interoperability. Under its terms, it would not claim the content as IP, but would electronically scan the relevant files – enabling users to access them on personal devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. Indeed, a sentence in the terms directly before the disputed paragraph states: ‘You retain ownership of any IP Rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.’
The terms also point out that help is at hand for users who think their IP is being infringed: ‘If you think somebody is violating your copyrights and want to notify us,’ they say.
A Google spokesman clarified: ‘You own your files and control their sharing, plain and simple. Our terms of service 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.’
Electronic Frontier Foundation IP director and online privacy expert Corynne McSherry said that Google’s wording on transferred or stored content conforms to a standard framework that is common across the larger online platforms. In her view, the requirement for such a clause is ‘an artifact of copyright laws that no longer work in our modern world’, rather than any intent on Google’s part to requisition its users’ material.