- Associated Press - Thursday, April 26, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — Google is facing suspicion and confusion as it tries to persuade people to entrust personal documents, photos and other content to the company’s new online storage service.

That became apparent shortly after Tuesday’s unveiling of the Google Drive service. Before the day was over, technology blogs and Twitter users were seizing on a legal clause in the “terms of service” that could be interpreted to mean that any content stored in Google Drive automatically becomes Google Inc.’s intellectual property.

The confusion centers on a passage advising that anyone uploading or submitting content to Google Drive will grant Google “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.”

As those words circulated on the Internet, fears about Google Drive undermining intellectual property rights mounted. Some interpreted the legalese to mean that if an author stores a novel on the service, Google suddenly owns the work and can do whatever it likes with it.

The new service’s policy was troubling enough for the New York Times to send out a note discouraging its roughly 1,000 newsroom employees from storing files on Google Drive until there’s a better understanding of the intellectual-property issues and how the service works.

As it turns out, the worries probably are unfounded.

Google says the language is standard legalese that gives the company the licensing rights it needs to deliver on services that users request.

The way Google keeps documents in its data centers requires the company to obtain a license to “host, store [and] reproduce” the files. If, say, a screenwriter in China uses Google’s services to collaborate on a movie script written in Mandarin with a script editor in Hollywood who only reads English, Google needs the rights for “translations, adaptations or other changes” to enable the two writers to work on the document in different languages and make revisions.

Even everyday occurrences such as someone watching a video or pulling up a text file at an Internet cafe require Google to retain permission to “publicly perform” or “publicly display” such content.

That doesn’t mean Google will take a screenwriter’s work-in-progress and produce a movie from it, the company says.

“Our terms of service enable us to give you the services you want - so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can,” Google said in a statement Wednesday.

The uproar over Google’s storage service might have died down if more attention had been paid to a straightforward statement leading up to the paragraph that set off the alarms.

“Some of our services allow you to submit content,” Google says in its disclosure. “You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

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