Calm Down Internet: Google Drive's Terms Are The Standard For Countless Websites, Including Gmail

from the oh-good,-this-again... dept

Remember when everyone freaked out about parts of Pinterest’s terms of service? And how, slowly but surely, word got out that the same terms can be found on virtually every website and are mostly harmless? And then everyone learned a lesson and calmed down, and would approach future terms of service with new knowledge and understanding?

Wait, scratch that last part. TNW reports that the terms of Google’s much-anticipated Drive service, which launched this week, have been treated to the same warm welcome from the Twitterverse. Someone spotted yet another variant of the “worldwide license” clause that all websites include, and before long the freakout flag was flying.

The clause in question, though admittedly scary-sounding, is routine:

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.

I hate to break it to the panicking masses, but Google is not planning on turning your spreadsheets into a touring art exhibit. A broad license like this is necessary to allow Google to operate such a service, permitting them to move the data around freely on their many servers all over the world, and display it to you (or the people you share it with) through a variety of devices and interfaces. The nightmare-labyrinth of international copyright law means that the most Google could do without such a clause is accept your data then immediately delete it—and even then someone would probably try to claim they made five unauthorized copies en route to the trash bin.

Perhaps most amusing is the fact that this piece of legal lingo doesn’t come from the Google Drive terms of service, but from Google’s overall terms for all their services. Meaning it already applies to everything from Gmail to Google Mars—so this might just be getting started. At this point, I suspect every social network and user content website online is waiting for the hammer to fall, since any one of them could be singled out at any time for yet another round. Oh well, I guess nothing beats a good freakout.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: google, pinterest

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Calm Down Internet: Google Drive's Terms Are The Standard For Countless Websites, Including Gmail”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
fairusefriendly (profile) says:

really then why doesn’t competing cloud drive services don’t have the exact same wording.

drop box
“Your Stuff & Your Privacy: By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, “your stuff”). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below.”


Your Content: Except for material that we license to you, we don’t claim ownership of the content you provide on the service. Your content remains your content. We also don’t control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service.”

contextual wrapping the “licence” within the scope of providing the service advertised would also allow them do what they need to do to provide the service, without taking more rights than they actually need.

sciwizam says:


Out of the $5 million Google spent on lobbying, $4million was for opposing SOPA and PIPA.

“Google’s spending may look excessive on the surface, but it’s important to note the company also spent some $4 million lobbying against SOPA and PIPA,”

Anonymous Coward says:

“We think this is an important issue and we’re watching the process closely but we haven’t taken a formal position on any specific legislation,” the spokeswoman said. – From The Hill.

I don’t know, if a corporation lobbies congress about CISPA but doesn’t tell you their stance. That’s kind of deceitful no? Why would they not tell you what position they are lobbying congress for?

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:


If you look at the Dropbox terms, the next paragraph says this:

We may need your permission to do things you ask us to do with your stuff, for example, hosting your files, or sharing them at your direction. This includes product features visible to you, for example, image thumbnails or document previews. It also includes design choices we make to technically administer our Services, for example, how we redundantly backup data to keep it safe. You give us the permissions we need to do those things solely to provide the Services. This permission also extends to trusted third parties we work with to provide the Services, for example Amazon, which provides our storage space (again, only to provide the Services).

Meaning somewhere along the line, you are granting them all the same rights that Google asks for – they are just breaking it up into various things you “agree” to at other points, and explaining it all here. But that paragraph about what permissions they need explains exactly what I just explained about why companies require these licenses.

Conversely, right before the “controversial” paragraph in Google’s terms, there is this line:

Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

Which, just like the lines you praise from DropBox and SkyDrive, makes it clear that Google is not taking ownership of anything.

The terms you praise are less scary on the surface, but are in fact just obscuring the exact same thing that Google makes clear, front and centre, in their unified terms.

Anonymous Coward says:

Marcus, you need to have a sit down with Glyn and Mike, because clearly you aren’t getting the memos:

It’s a story about “could” or “might” or “may”. Mike points to these things all the time. Heck, the whole argument against SOPA was based on what it MAY do.

Basically, what Google is asking for is an extreme license that allows them all rights to your content, including publishing your spreadsheets at will. It also means that any art work that your produce and put there is immediately and fully cross licensed to them – in all manners.

It’s a very, very wide ranging and unneeded grab for rights. I guess because it’s god Google doing it, it’s all good. Why give them such a large benefit of the doubt?

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:


Google has entirely separate privacy policies that outline how it will treat your data. And it’s been dinged by privacy regulators in the past when it has stepped outside them. It’s up to users to read those policies and decide if they want to give their data to Google. That has nothing to do with this copyright license which is entirely separate from their privacy policy, and is necessary to operate the service. Next question.

Anonymous Coward says:


To assume Google is JUST evil is delusional. If Google’s looking out for it’s interest and they happen to coincide with mine (as far as my rights go), then I don’t care. As long as they aren’t trying to walk all over me or my rights (ahem, unlike the RIAA/MPAA and other idiots) then I have no problem with that.

To assume though that everything is some vast conspiracy orchestrated by Google… well, if you need psychiatric help then just ask for it. There’s no judging here. Unless you’re being blatantly obtuse/ignorant. In which case you deserve what you have coming.

Anonymous Coward says:


Not really. A hosting company does not require to be granted copyright over my material to be able to store it. Google doesn’t require it either.

What Google is trying to allow for is the ability for them to take your data, and in a YouTube style way, present it in different formats, to translate it, to display it, publish it, or otherwise use it in any way they see fit without your express permission.

That isn’t hosting.

crade (profile) says:

So the “standard terms” are terrible and should be fought tooth and nail at every term.. Why people should calm down? How are you going to get companies to realize people object to these sort of terms if we don’t tell them?

“not planning to” is bullshit. It’s just as much bullshit as saying “don’t worry about sopa, because the mafiaa isn’t planning to take down your website”. People putting up with this stuff because they trust someone is “not planning” on using it is one of the reasons we end up with horrible agreements accepted as standards, then of course someone does end up using the terms and probably doesn’t even have to disclose that they are doing so.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you want something to stay private, _keep_it_off_of_the_internet_! It’s baffling that anyone can think that a system (the internet) that is simply _designed_ for sharing information could ever be truly private and absolutely secure. If you want secure, don’t let it out of your site. If you have anything that needs to be _that_ secure.. you’re lifing wrong.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:


A hosting company does not require to be granted copyright over my material to be able to store it.

Actually many, many hosting companies include the exact same worldwide license clause in their terms of service. And all hosting companies include total liability exemption for damages resulting from any and all uses of the service.

So um – you’re completely wrong about that I’m afraid.

Anonymous Coward says:


Which brings us back to his original point, “I have no idea. But that doesn’t change the fact you were lying about Google supporting CISPA. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t…but right now, we do not know.

Do not speak on things of which you know NOTHING about.”

Emphasis on “maybe” and “but right now, we do not know”.

YOU were making a declarative statement on something you have no proof of. As such, he was correct. YOU don’t know, neither does he. But his comment was to point out that you specifically were stating a false, declarative statement about their support for CISPA.

Unless you have definitive proof/evidence, DO NOT state such things as fact. You can put “Well I believe…” but don’t put it the way you did. Unless you want to get called out on it.

Anonymous Coward says:


I didn’t say it’s acceptable or unacceptable to do that. Don’t put words in my mouth. We were discussing you and your false statement.

However, in my opinion, I honestly don’t care one way or another. At the end of the day, a company is going to do what a company is going to do. I have very little say in the matter.

Honestly, no offense, rewrite your sentence. I’m having difficulty understanding some of it. “you won’t speak about publicly or say you have not stance on is not fair to the people who use their services”. That’s English obviously, it just seems unclear. So I can’t properly respond.

I assume you’re saying something about Google and the people who use it’s services, but what exactly is unclear to me?

Nor did I say Google doesn’t know their own stance on a given issue. To think a person or company wouldn’t know their/it’s own stance on something is indeed naive, which is a good thing I didn’t say or think that. Again, we were discussing YOU. And your false statement about Google, for which you’ve presented no proof/evidence to support your original claim.

Now, let’s make it simple. Do you have evidence (of a verifiable nature) that “Google Supports CISPA, end of story.”?

If you do, present it please.

If you don’t, care to retract your statement? Or amend it to something like… “I believe Google supports CISPA, but I have no proof of such support. As such it is purely speculation on my part.”

The latter gets respect from me and others here because you’re stating your beliefs and acknowledging you have nothing to support them. The former will get you called out on, as it clearly did, and which you’re now trying to detract away from by changing the conversation and/or by putting words in my mouth, when clearly the focus was on you and your statement.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


I guess because it’s god Google doing it, it’s all good.

That’s quite a leap of logic. I don’t like Google’s TOS, so I don’t use Google services as far as possible.

But that’s the key point: with a company imposing terms on their own services, I can choose not to use their services.

With matters of law, I have no such choice.

It’s a rather large difference.

Anonymous Coward says:


Wow you are kind of an asshole, insulting me and whatnot. You can’t edit comments and I am at work so, I am sorry if my lack of proofreading stunted your assessment of my comment.

Surely it is obvious that when a company refuses to tell you their stance on a topic that their position on that topic is not acceptable to the majority. That is how politics works.

I’m not going to argue about what words I put in your mouth because I truly don’t care and I did nothing of the sort. I believe your first reply what that I said Google was evil, you assumed that. The words I supposedly put in your mouth were questions I was asking those who disagree. Completely different.

I don’t know who you are, you are an anonymous coward if you were a member here that needs to be respected maybe you should have a username.

Anonymous Coward says:


The “so what” in my mind is that there is this white hat aura around Google that is unsupported by facts. Google is perhaps the most insidious privacy-invader since the Stasi and the worst monopoly position abuser since Standard Oil. Google spent 4-5 million the first quarter of 2012 on lobbying. While Google may not have a public position on this legislation, if you don’t think much of its Hill activity isn’t spent on CISPA you are kidding yourself.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


The “so what” in my mind is that there is this white hat aura around Google that is unsupported by facts.

Google lost its “white hat” aura a long, long time ago. Although I think you are comically hyperbolic when you say they are “the most insidious privacy-invader since the Stasi and the worst monopoly position abuser since Standard Oil”, google is a megacorp and being one of the less-unpleasant megacorps doesn’t alter that.

But your fixation on google and their lack of public stance on CISPA is very, very odd to me, particularly in comment on a post that doesn’t have anything to do with that.

It’s almost like you have some sort of ulterior motive, some mindless anti-google agenda so strong that you are trying to whip up anti-google sentiment by making stuff up. I know that can’t be true, because that would just make you a troll.

fairusefriendly (profile) says:


and that why i said

“contextual wrapping the “licence” within the scope of providing the service advertised would also allow them do what they need to do to provide the service, without taking more rights than they actually need.”

Google over stepped the bounds with their blanket auto licencing

drop box didn’t

You argued they “need” to have that “blanket” licence

which is of course patently false

they only need to have a licence for the scope of the service (“again, only to provide the Services”)

they put a clause that give them much much more.

John Fenderson (profile) says:


It was trolling because you made many comments intended to derail the conversation from the topic of the post onto something that advances your own personal agenda. If you had just made your one comment and let it go at that, or even if your subsequent comments did more than just repeated your original point, then it wouldn’t have been trolling, just off-topic.


The great Xerox

It’s not that they want to use it “any way that they see fit” but they want to be able to provide their service. That may require them to copy or transform whatever you upload. The nature of copyright means that any of their transformations can run afoul of copyright law.

On a fundemental level, copyright law is somewhat at odds with just computing in general. That TOS can be considered a manifestation of this basic fundemental tension.

Computers and networks are CONSTANTLY copying things. Even when you aren’t “making a copy”, it’s copying things. It’s just the nature of the beast.

Blimfark Smith says:

You say "freak out" - I say "due dilligence"

Color me unimpressed with the author’s reasoning (and tone). I know it’s fun to mock (what seem like) ridiculuous concerns and the assertions that “everyone is doing it” and “no harm will come from it” may be sufficient to dismiss personal concerns… but businesses storing any sort of [customer] IP or otherwise sensitive data on Google Drive would due well to look their own Client Agreements and Terms of Service.

Anonymous Coward says:

Double Standards?

Interesting discussion and it may underscore the reality of bias (in both directions) on the issues of tech interests vs copyright. An intelligent point made above is that, sure, the TOS may go overboard, but that no one is being FORCED to use Google’s services or agree to TOS to begin with. Couldn’t the same be said of pirated content from entertainment companies — sure copyright law is ridiculous but no one says you have to copy or use content that you know is unlicensed and then fall under its jurisdiction. (thought that was what the creative commons movement was all about, creating a separate ecosystem) The MAFIAA is vilified for their opaque lobbying and legislative influence to advance their business interests, but here I see commenters giving Google a pass using a hear-no-evil/see-no-evil approach. So Google is given the benefit of the doubt while the RIAA/MPAA are assumed to always be acting illegitimately? Seems a little opportunistic at best, naive at worst. We may be wary of our legal right to privacy being eroded, but that is parallel to the concerns of artists whose rights have been ignored. Slippery slope argument was used against SOPA for the abuses it might potentially allow — can’t we say the same now for Google’s privacy/use policies? Why assume the absolute worst of one company and not another? I don’t think either side is 100% right or wrong, just seems like the role of bias is pretty obvious. I see a lot of cherry-picking of arguments. If lobbying is suspicious, shouldn’t it be a suspicious engagement for all companies? If protecting our legal rights is important, shouldn’t that principle be consistently applied? And yeah, no one likes nasty comments, but isn’t the “troll” thing similarly used to dismiss opinions you happen to disagree with on either side of the issue, to preserve the views you came to the table with? Sorry if rambling, anyway just some thoughts.

fairusefriendly (profile) says:

Double Standards?

the answer is no

fair use allows you to use copyright material WITHOUT the permission of the copyright holder. It the trade off every copyright holder agrees to when they were granted the monopoly rights to CONTROL how their content is distributed in every OTHER case.

Your own argument about not using copyright material EXPLICITLY take away that right away from the public.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...