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Chrome licence fears also affect Picasa & Blogger

Concerns over Google's terms of service

The language in the terms of service for Google's Chrome browser, which prompted copyright concerns, also features in the terms of service for a number of other products including photo-editing software Picasa and Blogger.

Last week, the search engine bowed to pressure and removed the paragraph from Chrome's licence agreement that gave the company a licence to any material displayed in the browser. The language, however, remains in several other products.

The provision in the licence agreement states that Google users retain the copyright to the content they post into a Google product, but then says: "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 which you submit, post or display".

Similar language exists in terms of service for Picasa, Blogger, Google Docs and Google Groups. It does not exist in Gmail and no longer exists in Chrome.

The provisions raise security as well as privacy questions, said Randy Abrams, director of technical education at Eset, a cybersecurity vendor. "I wouldn't do anything that was personally sensitive or security-sensitive with most any Google product," he said.

Mike Yang, Google's senior product counsel, explained in a blog that in some cases, Google needs the license to display content.

"To be clear: our terms do not claim ownership of your content - what you create is yours and remains yours," Yang said. "But in lawyer-speak, we need to ask for a 'licence' (which basically means your permission) to display this content to the wider world when that's what you intend."

Several critics questioned whether that language was appropriate in other applications provided by Google.

Google seems to be going in two different directions with these licencing terms, Abrams said. "One thing is to abide by their 'do no evil' creed, but also claim as many rights as possible," he said. "This is a typical corporate response: Try to get as much as you can and back off if forced to."

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