Using social media is a norm for businesses in today’s world. Those who fully embrace social media find the necessity to embrace Google+ as well. The search engine giant holds a lot of power over us, so Google+ would appear as a necessity regardless of if we like the platform or not.
When working in the social media world, it’s important to understand how our intellectual property rights are impacted by the agreements we make with these social media companies. Each company takes a slightly different approach to handling your intellectual property.
Google’s Intellectual Property Terms
Google’s Terms of Service pertaining to your posted content reads as follows:
“Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.
When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through 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. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.
Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.
If you have a Google Account, we may display your Profile name, Profile photo, and actions you take on Google or on third-party applications connected to your Google Account (such as +1’s, reviews you write and comments you post) in our Services, including displaying in ads and other commercial contexts. We will respect the choices you make to limit sharing or visibility settings in your Google Account. For example, you can choose your settings so your name and photo do not appear in an ad.”
A copyright one type of intellectual property. It is your exclusive right to control how your content is used or seen. In this case, you maintain your copyright to anything you post to Google+ that you own the copyright to. For more information on copyrights, see our blog on Copyright.
Google wants to be able to use your intellectual property rights to display your content to others, create promotional content and manage their statistics. Google is a business and using your data is their business. Therefore, they need your permission to use this particular subset of your data.
The license you grant Google is…
“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.”
What this means is that you’re not limiting geographically where they can utilize your intellectual property. Throughout the world, you’re allowing them to do the variety of things listed above with your intellectual property. Hosting and storing your content is to be expected because otherwise their site wouldn’t work. Using your content is a very broad concept that is unfortunately not further defined. Creating derivative works can be as little as translating it into another language, or it can be as broad as to change the nature or appearance of your content.
Communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display, and distribute all stem from the same concept. Google needs to be able to post your content to their site.
Limitation on Google’s License
Fortunately, Google continues with their terms,
“The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”
With licenses, unless limited like Google has done here, we are forced to determine the limited scope of the license by using context. Context usually does not yield a great picture, so without this limitation, Google might be able to use your posts for the purpose of generating tell-all novels about the things people regrettably post on social media. That would be rather unfortunate for a lot of people, and probably a best selling novel.
In Google’s case, any uses of the intellectual property you upload to their servers needs to be tied to operating, promoting or improving their services or towards developing new services.
Cancelling Google’s License
Some social media sites end their license when the content is removed or when you cancel your account. In Google’s case, there is no end date. This means that once you upload a picture, video or text to Google+, you’re granting Google an indefinite license to use it. Keep this in mind because once you’ve given someone a license, you no longer own the entire exclusive right to use the content and you can never grant someone an exclusive license after that.
If Your Intellectual Property Rights are Violated
If you think someone has stolen your copyrighted materials, Google has policies and procedures for reporting and attempting to remove the stolen content from their site. Google takes all copyright violations very seriously, so be wary if you are unsure about the copyright ownership of something you’re about to post.
You can see Google’s Terms of Service here.
If you have any questions about Google’s Terms of Service or how to protect your intellectual property on social media, feel free to contact us to set up a consultation at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-912-9640.