copyright question Dear Doc:

I hear a lot about storing files on “the cloud” these days. From your perspective, do I lose any rights when I use such a service?  They sure are convenient!

Will Robinson


The “Doc” has reviewed the terms and conditions of the license agreements of a few “cloud” storage services, and here is what he found…

DROPBOX: “By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, “your stuff”). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below.”

MICROSOFT SKYDRIVE: “Except for material that we license to you, we don’t claim ownership of the content you provide on the service. Your content remains your content. We also don’t control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service.”

APPLE iCLOUD: “Apple does not claim ownership of the materials and/or Content you submit or make available on the Service. However, by submitting or posting such Content on areas of the Service that are accessible by the public or other users with whom you consent to share such Content, you grant Apple a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available, without any compensation or obligation to you.”

GOOGLE DRIVE: “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.”

For comparison, here are the terms for Google’s incredibly popular GMail service:

GMAIL: “Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Google services and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate. By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, modify, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services. Google reserves the right to syndicate Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services and use that Content in connection with any service offered by Google.”

So, Will, of all of these services, the new Google Drive service is the one to avoid (for now) because anything you put on that service may be used by Google in any way (public performance?) whether you intend to make it public or not.  The “Doc” uses some of these services, but NEVER puts anything confidential on them without first encrypting the information using a very strong public key encryption program (GPG) using a 2048 bit key.  By the way, if you’re a lawyer, accountant or medical doctor, you have other professional rules that may limit your use of cloud services.  Be careful of those, too. The “Doc” may be paranoid, but remember the old saying, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they’re NOT out to get you!”  You’ve been warned.  Now remember to turn on the force field before you go to bed.

The “Doc”

— Lawrence A Husick, Esq.