As my grandmammy used to say, “AH, LAWDY! This here’s sure ‘nuff a pickle!”
More than a few news sources are reporting on the Google Terms of Service (TOS) which has spooked people into the belief that Google is out to steal the user’s content. Specifically, the portion which reads:
“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. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.”
The most vexing line being “publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”
Publish? Publicly perform? Publicly display? Whoa, hoss! That sounds incredibly fishy, and when I first read this my hairs stood up on end, igniting in a brilliant flash of disbelief . But, before I ran off with my hair on fire, I stopped and took a breath.
Here, dear reader, I ask you to do the same.
Now, I’m going to go out on a very thin, scary limb, and say two things. First, for most people it would be a dream to have Google publish and/or publicly perform something uploaded to their servers. Why? Most of us are not superstars, or even locally recognized, but we would love to be. For a lot of us, the internet is the great equalizer, the chance to become the next Justin Beiber, or at least the next Chocolate Rain Guy. The spotlight from Google publicizing us would be incredible.
I don’t know about you, but that’s a problem I will gladly embrace. In fact, since I wrote this piece and saved it to my Google Drive, I address Google directly here, “PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, publish and/or publicly perform/display this article. If you do ‘perform’ it, I have the further request that Patrick Stewart play me. Thanks.”
If there is something that would devastate you to have published, displayed or performed, DO NOT upload it anywhere. Period. Why take the chance?
Second, and this is why I’m willing to play devil’s advocate here, everyone who is ranting that Google is blatantly taking distribution rights to our stuff have forgotten one very important fact, Google’s TOS covers ALL of Google’s offerings: gmail, google docs, google +, youtube, blogger, etc., etc.
For a moment, think back to February. Remember how you couldn’t do ANYTHING on Google without seeing a pop-up, reminder, etc. stating that their TOS was changing March 1, 2012. Remember that it stated that the TOS was going to be a simplified, all-encompassing dictate? Well, the line that is so disturbing, “publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content” does not mean it is Google’s intent to communicate, publish, publicly perform or publicly display your content without your permission, all willy-nilly as they see fit. It means that items YOU upload, that YOU choose to have published (documents you either share or publish on Blogger), publicly performed (videos to air on youtube), publicly display (pictures uploaded to Picassa), will be conveyed in the manner you specified, and you give Google permission to do so. That’s it. Nothing more.
I’m not ignorant enough to say that there is ABSOLUTELY no way that Google would be evil and publish something without the owner’s permission. I just seriously doubt that is their intention here. Google wants to stay in business. Despite the fact that they could get away with it for a while, they wouldn’t last very long if it really was their policy to outright steal content from their users. People would revolt. We have seen it happen, and what’s more, we have seen it work. Remember SOPA and PIPA?
So, here we are. This issue has all the trappings of being blown out of proportion, and according to my Facebook, Twitter and Google+ feeds it’s well on its way. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype. The media tends to be as sensational as possible because sensation gets attention, and attention get clicks/views, and clicks/views makes money.
I want to be very clear that I am NOT suggesting that all journalists are trying to do is stir up controversy where there is none. Some are, unfortunately, but I’m not ready to say that’s all journalists are after.
It is important to dig deep and ask questions. When we’ve dug and questioned, we then need to step back and look at what we’ve found. On second glance, what we thought was there might be some something completely different; things might not be all that bad afterall.