Google Amends Chrome License Agreement After Objections

Google will dump a section of the licensing agreement for its new Chrome browser after some Internet users objected to its copyright implications.

Google said Wednesday it would dump one section of the end-user licensing agreement that gave the company "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 new browser.

Several Web users raised copyright and privacy concerns about portions of the licensing agreement shortly after Google launched Chrome Tuesday. Some critics suggested the language would allow Google to use any Web content displayed in Chrome without getting copyright permission.

Google said it borrowed language from other products, "in order to keep things simple for our users," when it inserted the copyright provision in the Chrome license.

"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," Rebecca Ward, senior product counsel for Chrome, said in a statement. "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."

In addition to the perpetual copyright granted to Google in section 11, the license allowed the company to "make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services."

That language comes from Google's universal terms of service, the company said.

The wording lead to a copyright debate on Slashdot.org, although one poster noted that Slashdot's parent company, SourceForge, uses similar language in some license agreements. Florida lawyer David Loschiavo dissected the Google licensing agreement in his own blog post.

"In other words, by posting anything (via Chrome) to your blog(s), any forum, video site, myspace, itunes, or any other site that might happen to be supporting you, Google can use your work without paying you a dime," Loschiavo wrote."It applies to everything you pass through Chrome. Google can take your submitted content and edit and reuse it all they want, as long as they do so in connection with Chrome."

The license agreement seemed to assume that Web users had ownership of all the content they produced and displayed through Chrome, he added. Employees of Web publishers or universities probably couldn't legally agree to the Chrome terms of service, "because these people most likely don't have the right to give a license to the intellectual property (IP) they produce," Loschiavo wrote. "Most likely your employee or student agreement requires that your employer/university exclusively owns all IP that you make during your time there."

Web content creators, such as news writers and musicians employed by a company, may have been in breach of their employment contracts had they agreed to the Google license, he said. "Further, you probably can't use your company or school email with Chrome, because your company probably exclusively owns your email, and you can't give away a license to something you don't own," Loschiavo wrote. "You also can't make representations to Google that you have the power to license this IP if you don't."

Other companies have attempted to use similar language in Web-based products, including Microsoft and AOL for their instant messaging products, Loschiavo said. Those attempts raised objections as well, he said.

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