More Google TOS Panic

The Washington Post has picked up on the Google Terms of Service panic, specifically in relation to photography.  It seems that the offending paragraph from the TOS is this one:

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.

Let’s talk about “syndicated services,” because I feel a lot of the fear of what is happening with these terms of service agreements stems from a lack of understanding of the process of web publishing.

When you create a blog, you are syndicating your content for the world.  The content you upload is in an XML format.  XML allows your content to be easily incorporated into other locations via RSS, which is often referred to as “really simple syndication.”  As I mentioned in my previous post about TOS agreements, the rationale behind this language is not so Google can steal your images.  It’s so Google can allow your content to be syndicated across the web in any form of content reader available to people.

This provision allows an individual to read your blog, or in G+ your photos, without having to actually visit your blog directly at Blogspot or through Google+.  People can simply import the RSS feed or AtomFeed into a syndicated feed reader like Google Reader, TweetDeck or whatever, and thus can get your content without directly visiting your page, OR as Google+ can export to email addresses for people who haven’t signed up for their service, in their preferred email service.

Is Google profiting on your photo?  Not in any direct monetary value kind of way.  However, you are.  You are winning with this provision because more people are seeing your image, because you allowed them to.  To take umbrage with this clause means that you want to deny other people the ability to read your content in their preferred method, thus limiting your readership base.  These web publishers want your content to be made as widely available as possible, because it will drive hits to their site.  Thus making them a more desirable company, and ultimately in business longer, giving you a longer opportunity to run your business through them.

What I would like to see is less knee jerk reaction to these terms, and more education about what they actually mean and what the service accomplishes via these terms.


4 comments on “More Google TOS Panic

  1. Education instead of PANIC!!!? That’s just crazy talk.

  2. jon says:

    Agreed about education rather than panic. However the paragraph you quoted isn’t the only one that matters. More important is this one:

    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

    That means that they can do anything they want with the photos you update — as long as it’s for the purpose of displaying, distributing or promoting their services, which includes just about everything. [Remember when Facebook used a woman’s picture in an add for ‘meeting local singles’ without telling her and her husband found out about it? That’s an example of ‘promoting their service.]

    As you point out, it may still be to your advantage to share photos and other original content on Plus — if you Creative Commons your work and allow for commercial reuse, then you’re already giving Google and everybody else these rights anyhow. But it’s still important to understand what you’re signing up for.

    • Eric S Riley says:

      Oh, I went over that in the previous post about TOS agreements, on Friday. 🙂 Didn’t figure I had to recap it again. But thanks for bringing up the Facebook fiasco. I had completely forgotten that. Though, in this particular agreement I think they’ve hemmed themselves in more than you say. The performance rights are related to the distribution of your content through “the Services” which is about pushing your content through other media on your behalf. Because the Google TOS explicitly states that the owner retains copyright on their work, then shouldn’t they also be requesting permission from the author for the use of their image outside of The Services? I would imagine under DMCA that they would have to.

  3. I meant to comment earlier and thank you for this post, but I was unable to remove my knee from my mouth.

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