Google Chrome's weird terms of use

Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb has pointed out some pretty odd terms in Google Chrome’s terms of use. The terms he refers to are the terms dealing with the content license granted to Google through using Chrome:

11. Content license from you

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.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google 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.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

One of the key defined terms in this clause is the term “Content” which is defined as follows:

all information (such as data files, written text, computer software, music, audio files or other sounds, photographs, videos or other images) which you may have access to as part of, or through your use of, the Services

What I find odd about this clause at first glance is that this “perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license” applies to content that you display in addition to the content you submit or post. The reasons why I find this to be pretty odd are:

  1. that you may be displaying content in Chrome that belongs to other people (so you don’t have the legal right to grant any sort of license in respect of that content in the first place); and
  2. the content you may be viewing could be licensed under a specific license (for example a Creative Commons license that prohibits the creation of derivative works – this would conflict with the license granted to Google to “adapt” or even “modify” the content displayed in Chrome).

I can understand Google wanting to ensure that it isn’t sued (again!) for copyright infringement merely because a user uploads family photos to Picasa and takes offence that it displays in Chrome (I’m trying to think of an example of where someone might object to Chrome displaying content and regard that as copyright infringement). What I don’t understand is how Google can expect me, as a prospective user (well, when there is a version for my Mac), to license content published by someone else using the license Google specifies.

One way Google could resolve this issue is to limit the application of the license to content you own. That won’t change the fact that Chrome seems to be the only browser out of Chrome, Safari and Firefox that tries to determine how your content is licensed when using the browser. Safari’s license seems to apply to your use of Safari and the license of the software itself. I haven’t been able to locate Firefox’s license but I doubt there is something in there about licensing your content!

As I said in the the title to this post, Chrome’s terms of use are just weird.

Update: Take a look at this post on Webware too for a few extra legal gremlins.

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