Beware: copyright on Google+

Google+ seems to be the next big thing. Currently on an invite-only basis, it’s a true hype.

Google+ is Google’s answer to social networking (read: Facebook). And although Google had some flops in the recent past with Google Wave and Google Buzz, Google+ is looking at a brighter future.

Like all social media Google+ is all about sharing: sharing your hopes and dreams, your favorite restaurants, your status and… your photographs and shap shots. And that’s where it gets scary.

Your relationship with Google (and therefore Google+) is incorporated in the Terms of Service (TOS). And by agreeing with that TOS, you give Google a license to use your photograph. But not any ordinary license, no, 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” Google+. Wow! Scary, no?

Beware of what you share. And, more importantly, what happens to your copyright when you do.




About the Author: Erwin Haüer


3 Comments+ Add Comment

  • Regarding your copyrights, you exactly know where they are going.
    At section 11.1 there is clear statement: “You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold…”

    I put here the same thing I wrote on another site:

    Maybe you don’t know how a CDN (content Distribution Network) works… Google does not rely just on its own servers and lines to distribute content all over the internet, they use carriers like Akamai and Limelight, which store the content and make them available greographically (it’s called Proxying).

    So, yes, the content rights must be given to another company, else it cannot be delivered to users; but it’s just inside the Service, so when you grant your rights to Google and other companies, you just give them in order to distribute the content inside the definition of “Service” (in this case, the social network called Google+).

    Google and the CDNs cannot sell your image or use it to create a booklet or a website, they have just the right to modify the size, the compression rate, the cropping, the colorspace, etc, in order to fit the picture inside the framework of the Service.(cit: “and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.”)

  • Photofocus (your source) conveniently excluded the first part of that clause which guarantees your right to your content’s copyright:

    11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual [...]

    As Marco points out above, the verbiage in the TOS is of a *technical* nature. This way Google can convert image formats and/or compress your uploads without it being considered a “derived work” for you to sue Google over. It also gives Google the right to cache your imagery on their servers, even after you’ve deleted it from the service (cache mitigation is complex).

  • The above two commentors seem to be on the right track. Here’s a more thorough analysis by an IP lawyer. A lot less hand-wringing, and a lot less FUD. Good read.