Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


The Google Chrome terms of service are hilarious

I’ve been very busy lately, but this is just too much to not comment on.

There are other articles about how the Google Chrome terms of service give Google an irrevocable license to use any content you submit through “The Services” (a nice catchall term which includes all Google products and services), but the analysis really hasn’t gone far enough – that article glosses over the fact that this applies not only to content you submit, but also content you display. Of course, since this is a WEB BROWSER we’re talking about, that means every page you view with it.

In short, when you view a web page with Chrome, you affirm to Google that you have the right to grant Google an irrevocable license to use it to “display, distribute and promote the Services”, including making such content available to others. If you don’t have that legal authority over every web page you’ve visited, you’ve just fraudulently granted that license to Google and may yourself be liable to the actual copyright owner. (If you do, of course, you’ve just granted them that license for real.) I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect that Google has either committed mass inducement to fraud or the entire EULA (which lacks a severability clause) is impossible to obey and therefore void. [Update: there is a severability clause in the general terms, which I missed on the first reading. Does that mean that the entire content provisions would be removed, or just the parts that apply to the license you grant Google over the content you don't have copyright to? I don't know.]

Even more so than usual, these terms are, quite frankly, ridiculous and completely inappropriate for not only a web browser but an open source web browser.

Nice going guys.

3 Responses to “The Google Chrome terms of service are hilarious”

  1. Alan Hogan Says:

    Such a good blog post. Yes, it’s hilariously bad. Good work pointing these things out! (If you haven’t seen it, check out Bruce Lawson’s post on Chrome:

  2. James Grimmelmann Says:

    The EULA (as of 18:00 EDT 2008-09-03) doesn’t contain this license. The whole of Section 11 now reads, “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.” Has Google yanked the offending terms, do you figure?

  3. adam Says:

    Yes, they “fixed” that, but there are still other things:

    5.5 Unless you have been specifically permitted to do so in a separate agreement with Google, you agree that you will not reproduce, duplicate, copy, sell, trade or resell the Services for any purpose

    ##### A separate agreement… like the actual license of the source code?

    8.3 Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any service.

    ##### So Google may block any site from being accessed with Chrome and retains the rights to modify pages as they see fit?

    10.2 You may not (and you may not permit anyone else to) copy, modify, create a derivative work of, reverse engineer, decompile or otherwise attempt to extract the source code of the Software or any part thereof, unless this is expressly permitted or required by law, or unless you have been specifically told that you may do so by Google, in writing.

    ##### Again… this is an open source product. Why is this even in here?

    And the terms for other Google services are similarly confusing with inappropriate language.

    It’s not that I think that Google intends to do any of these things, but contracts, even non-negotiable EULAs, should be read in the worst case scenario. If you don’t intend to enforce provisions in a contract, take them out. You know what’s simple and easy on users? Legal documents that say what they mean instead of hiding behind inappropriate boilerplate language that may or may not apply.

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