How the Google EULA controversy shows the problems with lawyer written agreements

Published September 3rd, 2008 edit replace rm!

By now you have no doubt heard about the issue with Google’s Chrome End User License Agreement (or EULA).

The original clause of concern was:

1.1 You retain copyright and any other rights that you already hold in Content that 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 licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content that you submit, post or display on or through the Services. This licence 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.

In theory this pretty much gave Google rights to anything you do through your browser. In practice as it is a non negotiated contract of adhesion this clause probably wouldn’t hold up in court anyway. (If they used Agree2 it would though)

Anyway Google changed it to:

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.

Ars Technica has the full story on the change with this choice quote from Google’s Senior Product Counsel (read lawyer) for google Chrome:

Google’s Rebecca Ward, Senior Product Counsel for Google Chrome, now tells Ars Technica that the company tries to reuse these licenses as much as possible, “in order to keep things simple for our users.” Ward admits that sometimes “this means that the legal terms for a specific product may include terms that don’t apply well to the use of that product” and says that Google is “working quickly to remove language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service. This change will apply retroactively to all users who have downloaded Google Chrome.”

This to me is why you really should not leave these to lawyers. Lawyers will almost always copy and paste rather than look at the real needs of your service, situation or offering. This is as she says exactly what She did. Without at any point thinking that this does not in any way make sense for a browser.

Too many people (such as Rafe) hold lawyers up on such a pedestal that they forget that it is them the owners, product managers or what have you that really understand the product. I am not saying don’t use lawyers, just check it over and refuse anything that doesn’t make sense. Also tell them your concerns and needs with the agreement before hand.


Andreas Pizsa September 21st, 2008

regarding copy & paste: that‘s what most programmers do as well :)

There’s a lot of similarity between law and lawyers and software coding. In fact, I’d even say that writing code is the same as writing a contract.


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