Motley Fool on MSNBC misquotes the Google TOS -- "Privacy Nightmare" not so scary after all
As anyone who's read my graphic novel "Vision Machine" (visionmachine.net
) knows, I'm a bit paranoid when it comes to privacy, surveillance and intellectual property issues. So my ears pricked up when I heard that Motley Fool on MSNBC.com had posted an article entitled "Google+: And You Thought Facebook Is a Privacy Nightmare." ( http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43705078/ns/business-motley_fool/
And I was disturbed when read the following excerpt from the Google Terms of Service in the Motley Fool article:By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google 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 Services.
Sounds scary, right? Particularly for a writer who makes a living off of his own intellectual property. But before getting too agitated, I decided to read the actual Google Terms of Service (http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS
). And unfortunately, the Motley Fool article edited out two key sentences, which I've bolded below: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, 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 Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.
I'm no lawyer, but the bolded sentences seem to say that Google only needs the license in order to provide the services I'm asking it to provide. Yes, there's conceivably wiggle room in the word "promote." But as an intellectual property creator, I don't have any fear that Google has the legal grounds here to collect my posts and sell them as an e-book, for example.
Even more amusingly, when I tried to post a comment on the MSNBC website to point out the omission, I was asked to sign an MSNBC/Newsvine Terms of Service ( http://www.newsvine.com/_nv/cms/info/privacyPolicy
) that includes the following language, which you might find eerily familiar:You retain all copyright to all original User Content you submit to the Site. By transmitting or submitting User Content to the Site, you hereby grant Newsvine, its Affiliates and sublicensees: (a) a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free, perpetual and fully sublicensable and transferable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such User Content in any media, now known or hereafter devised; and (b) the right to use the name, identifier, or any portion thereof, submitted in connection with such User Content, if they so choose. Please note that Newsvine and its Affiliates, as a policy, do not actively edit User Content. We either leave the User Content posted as is or take it down entirely. However, in some situations, certain modifications may occur without our active participation, such as due to our obscenity filtering software, which may automatically change profane language to characters such as '@#!%'. For purposes of the User Agreement, "Affiliate" means any person, partnership, joint venture, corporation or other form of enterprise, domestic or foreign, including but not limited to subsidiaries, that directly or indirectly controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with Newsvine.
In short, it's a good idea to check things out a bit before believing everything you read.H/T +Robert A. George for giving me a heads up about the Motley Fool article.