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« More Free (Online) Books | Main | Google Backs Up On Chrome EULA »

September 3, 2008

Google, Chrome, and Copyright

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

I'm filing this under "IP Abuse" because I'm starting to think Chrome, Google's new wonder-browser, is a tool for (potential) copyright abuse. I was first tipped to this by Edward Champion, who blogs under the title "Reluctant Habits." In a post dated September 3, he picks apart the Chrome EULA and does not like what he sees.

In essence, Google has applied the same EULA that it uses for Gmail to everything you put into the Chrome browser. What, you never read the gmail EULA? You do realize it gives Google copyrights in your email, right? Yeah, it does.

Anyway, here's the relevant clause from the Chrome EULA:

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.
So, technically, you still keep the copyrights for things you create in the Chrome browser - like, say, blog entries. But you give up to Google the right to redistribute that content, including using it for commercial purposes.

That's potentially very bad. Should Google ever choose to make use of those rights it could cause problems ranging from simple embarrassment to loss of serious value. For example, I work at a company that makes Web-based tools for securities traders. If someone runs our tools in a Chrome browser, does that mean Google owns (or thinks it has any rights to) my customers' financial data? Should I be telling my customers not to run Chrome? Does this principle apply to anyone who ever does any home banking in the Chrome browser?

This condition seems completely unnecessary for a browser. I can't find any similar language in the Firefox EULA. The Internet Explorer EULA has language some people object to in terms of disabling and potential interference, but it doesn't seem to contain any terms claiming ownership of content. WTF, Google?

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: IP Abuse


1. Justy on September 3, 2008 10:35 AM writes...

I'm curious what the use of "non-exclusive" means in this context? Added to "This license is for the *sole purpose* of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services..." [emphasis mine], I would read it as the user having all rights to the work he or she has submitted through the Services while giving Google *non-exclusive* rights to use such in their promotional materials.

Now, I agree that use of what may be private in promotional materials (esp. with regard to Gmail, etc.) is a worry aspect, I think I've presented a plausible way to read that paragraph.

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2. Jay on September 3, 2008 10:38 AM writes...

Quelle surprise.

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3. T. D. on September 3, 2008 11:05 AM writes...

Justy, to your question regarding "non-exclusive," this is only to say that Google cannot prevent you from using your own copyrighted material, or licensing it to other people. I'm an entertainment attorney and we frequently use non-exclusive licenses; for instance, a producer will grant an artist/label the non-exclusive right to use his/her name & likeness in connection with the album, the implication being that the producer is free to produce other records and have his/her name used with it as well.

Funny because I read through the license yesterday after downloading Chrome and was also taken aback by the same provision. I can understand granting a license for displaying and distributing the services, simply because the service necessarily must make copies of the material and transmit them in order for the browser to work. However, one might think that to the extent Google needs such a license to carry out my commands, e.g., transmitting the text for this post, such a license is implied on a case-by-case basis and no further grant of rights is necessary.

The promotional use is what is especially concerning - why would Google ever need a blanket license from me to promote their services? Even in a commercial deal between two parties for a finite product, such promotional uses are frequently reigned in. Using my producer example from above, we would allow name/likeness use for promotion of the album, but oftentimes will not permit institutional advertising for the label.

To your issue concerning confidential information, this provision has to be reconciled with Google's privacy policy; while this license is broad, the privacy policy would prevent some of the more egregious abuses, though its concerning, nonetheless.

I'm glad you've pointed out this little provision, and hopefully Google will explain itself.

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4. billb on September 3, 2008 11:44 AM writes...

Have a Gmail or Google Reader account? The same clause has been in their terms of service for years (section 11.1):

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5. billb on September 3, 2008 4:31 PM writes...

BTW, just stumbled on this:

Permalink to Comment

6. Saint Germain on September 3, 2008 4:36 PM writes...

I like google chrome, its very fast, but i will keep my firefox ;-)

Permalink to Comment

7. Patrick Steil (ChurchBuzz) on May 19, 2011 2:57 PM writes...

Yes, but this link:


Google does not claim any ownership in any of the content, including any text, data, information, images, photographs, music, sound, video, or other material, that you upload, transmit or store in your Gmail account. We will not use any of your content for any purpose except to provide you with the Service.

This more clearly states they are not going to use your email for anything further than providing you email services... hmm...


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