SAN FRANCISCO — Google CEO Larry Page recently wrote that he hopes to show the company is "deserving of great love." But the Internet search leader may need to win more trust, based on the suspicions swirling around Google Drive, a new online storage service for personal documents, photos and other content.
Within a few hours of Google Drive's Tuesday debut, technology blogs and Twitter users were pouncing on a legal clause in the "terms of service" that could be interpreted to mean that any content stored in Google Drive automatically becomes Google Inc.'s intellectual property.
The confusion centered on a passage advising that anyone uploading or submitting content to Google Drive will grant Google "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."
As those words circulated on the Internet, fears about Google Drive undermining intellectual property rights mounted. Some interpreted the legalese to mean that if an author stores a novel on the service, Google suddenly owns the work and can do whatever it likes with it.
As it turns out, the worries are probably unfounded.
Google says the language is actually standard legalese that gives the company the licensing rights it needs to deliver on services that users' request.
The way Google keeps documents in its data centers requires the company to obtain a license to "host, store (and) reproduce" the files. If, say, a screenwriter in China uses Google's services to collaborate on a movie script written in Mandarin with a script editor in Hollywood who only reads English, Google needs the rights for "translations, adaptations or other changes" to allow the two writers to work on the document in different languages and make revisions.
Even everyday occurrences such as someone watching a video or pulling up a text file at an Internet cafe requires Google to retain permission to "publicly perform" or "publicly display" such content.
That doesn't mean Google will take a screenwriter's work-in-progress and produce a movie from it, the company says.
"Our terms of service enable us to give you the services you want — so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can," Google said in a statement.