Royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable licenses
With disappointing repetitiveness, I stumble across some bozo up in arms over some company that’s attempting to “steal your copyright.” These are usually in a lather because they’ve actually read the Terms of Service for [insert web-based application here] and noticed language that looks something like this:
“the submitting user grants [company] the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, all subject to the terms of any applicable license.”
A good example is this comment on the Slashdot story last week about Adobe launching an online version of Photoshop Express. I’ve had to deal with these kind of complaints for the web properties I’m responsible for, but my annoyance is nothing new. The first time I remember coming across complaints about these kind of terms is almost a decade ago when Yahoo! took over Geocities. It annoyed me even back then when I was just a humble ed tech trainer, not a product manager responsible for honest-to-goodness web applications.
Although I am not a lawyer and you definitely shouldn’t take legal advice from me, let me explain to you what the heck is going on here: it’s called the Internet.
When you upload your content from your computer to [insert web-based application here] you are transferring that content from your computer to the centrally-hosted web application that, presumably, will reproduce that content when it serves it up for display to you or someone else on the web page. This is is commonly known as publishing in web parlance, a way to distribute content over the World Wide Web. Etc. etc. Terms starting to sound familiar?
The Web works by making copies of content and transmitting/distributing those copies all over hell and back anytime someone views a web page, not to mention all the caching of copies. Any company that’s going to get into the business of helping you put content of any sort on the web needs to get your permission to do fling that content all over the globe.
If the vendor didn’t explicitly make the license to do that part of the terms, then some other bozo is going to come along and say “I uploaded a photo to your photo sharing site, and you had the unmitigated gall to — horror or horrors — transmit my content to the web browser of someone, and in the process of doing so allowed them to cache a copy of that photo on their own computer! How dare you! I’m suing you for copyright infringement, Mr. Vendor!” The type of terms like those quoted above are about how the web works and making sure that some litigious jackass doesn’t sue the vendor over doing what’s necessary for a web app to exist. It’s not about “stealing copyright.”
So, you “stealing copyright” bozos, please stop getting your knickers in a twist. Put your tinfoil hat back on and wait by the front door for the black helicopters.
Oh, by the way, the quoted terms above? They’re quoted from the Slashdot Terms of Service. ;-)