Upon logging into my Gmail this morning, a mandatory step in my daily routine, I noticed an alert that Google is consolidating the privacy policies and terms of service for all of its various online offerings. Being in the business of law, I felt compelled to read through the changes to see how Google will handle managing information about a user.
Of course, being an intellectual property attorney, I immediately look to see how the rights relating to user owned copyrights and other IP is handled. Google’s terms of service reads:
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.
Sounds amazing, right? But, if you read on…
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. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps).
So, if a user posts one of his or her copyrighted materials on onc of Google’s services, the user in effect grants Google a non-revocable license to use the material, essentially, how they see fit, for “operating, promoting, and improving service, and develop new services,” a pretty broad group of categories.
This peaked my interest as to how a user’s copyrighted materials are handled on other popular social sites, such as Facebook. Again, things start out rosy:
You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings.
But the devil is in the details:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).
To my surprise, Facebook seems to make less of a grab on your copyrighted materials than Google. Of concern, Facebook claims the right to transfer and sub-license your content. However, it appears that any and all of Facebook’s rights in your content ends upon deletion of the content from Facebook’s system by the copyright holder and those with whom the content has been shared.
As a little bonus, section 5.6 of Facebook’s terms of service states, “You will not use our copyrights or trademarks (including Facebook, the Facebook and F Logos, FB, Face, Poke, Wall and 32665), or any confusingly similar marks, without our written permission.” So, allegedly, the word “face” is now owned by Facebook. If this turns out like the Superbowl-”Big Game” situation, we may have to start referring to our faces as our “head fronts.”