Google Drive & Delusions of Grandeur

Published on Author Eli Fennell

Google Drive is here, long anticipated, and with disruptive potential for the cloud computing wars.  In fact, we can already see the disruptiveness, as competitors rush to match or beat Google Drive on storage space and pricing.  It’s already reminiscent of the email storage wars that Gmail disrupted with its plentiful storage space.

But, some potential users are concerned that Google’s Terms of Service might give them ownership of your intellectual property.  The line often cited to justify this fear is as follows (

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.

Stripped from all context, it sounds ominously like Google is claiming to own your stuff, but here are the parts that most sources have omitted, I suspect deliberately in some cases (bold added for emphasis):

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.
The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.

I don’t know how much more explicit Google’s TOS could be: you own your intellectual property, not Google.  Microsoft’s SkyDrive is worded almost exactly the same way, in fact.

This TOS applies across most Google services, and similar confusion has arisen in the past regarding YouTube, Google+, and also Facebook.  What do Google and Facebook have in common?  They are both under 20-year review for how they use our data, so unlike some of their competitors, they need to be extra careful to ensure that they let you know how your data will be used, even when their rivals use your data in the same way but don’t make this as explicit in their TOS.

Given that Google wound up in a crap storm over Google Buzz for far less egregious violations of user privacy than stealing Intellectual Property, the idea that they would exploit vague TOS’s for this purpose is nonsense, and the idea that legal and regulatory authorities would allow them to get away with this is even more nonsensical.

Let’s just suppose, though, that somehow Google could claim the right to steal your IP.  Who, exactly, are you that you believe your IP would be worth stealing?  Google already makes money from your content… by advertising to you!  News Flash: Google has some $50bn cash on hand, they don’t need to steal your latest Southern Recipes eBook, your independent film project, or the secret Imperial plans to the Death Star for that matter.

While I wouldn’t advise Tim Cook to upload plans for the next iPhone to Google Drive, for the 99.umpteen% of the rest of us, Google would have no reason to steal our stuff to make what would surely be a pittance compared to their total revenue.  Google makes 97% of their multi-billion dollar per year revenue from advertising, and the worst thing they could do to their own business model would be to sacrifice their stellar reputation with consumers by stealing the intellectual property of their users.  They make more than enough without resorting to petty theft.

Only in a nation where the majority of the population believes they will some day be in the top 10% of earners in the economy, despite the mathematical improbability that a gas station attendant will ever rise to that status, could anyone except for a Tim Cook, a Steve Ballmer, etc… convince themselves that what they’re uploading to YouTube or Google Drive or any other Google service is so valuable that anyone at Google would feel inclined to steal it, when simply hosting it makes them billions as is.

If what you are uploading puts you in direct competition with Google, then I advise being paranoid just in case.  Otherwise, do yourself a favor, and get over yourself!  You aren’t important enough, in all likelihood, for anyone at Google to even know who you are, let alone want to steal from you.  That’s even assuming that Google would legally be allowed to steal your Intellectual Property, which they wouldn’t be.  Period.