Company says it never intended to use customers' data

Google will change the EULA for its Chrome web browser just days after its release, due to a handful of users spotting a provision that gives the company a license to most anything its browser is used to create.

The text in question, contained in Section 11 of the Chrome Terms of Service, allows users to retain copyright of their work, but grants Google a “perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content” created with Chrome.

Essentially, Section 11 gives Google free reign to do what it wants with most anything that passes from the user to the internet via its browser, including the contents of blog entries, forum posts, and photo uploads – all without paying a cent.

“With more and more apps being shifted into web browsers, this is almost like MS claiming that it gets a license to any document in MS Word, PowerPoint, or Excel,” says Florida attorney David Loschiavo. “What if MS got a license to patents, trademarks and copyrights of any software created with Visio or Visual Studio? … What if Adobe got a license to everything made in Photoshop?”

Google representative Rebecca Ward, head lawyer for Chrome, says the inclusion of Section 11 was a simple oversight, caused by the company’s proclivity for releasing multiple products under a single, “Universal” Terms of Service.

“Sometimes, as in the case of Google Chrome, this means that the legal terms for a specific product may include terms that don't apply well to the use of that product,” she said Tuesday. “We are working quickly to remove language from Section 11 of the current Google Chrome terms of service.”

Even better, Ward says the change will be applied “retroactively” to “all users who have downloaded Google Chrome.”

Ars Technica notes that users can get around Chrome’s EULA – regardless of what it says – by compiling the browser from its source code, which is freely available under the far more permissive BSD license.

Chrome, released Tuesday, is already making waves amongst internet users for speed, ease of use, and innovative take on reliability. Notably, the browser’s release included a 38-page comic book illustrated by cartoonist and webcomic promoter Scott McCloud.

While it’s considered unlikely that Chrome has the capability of making good on its Section 11 claims, some observers noted that the browser’s “Omnibox”, its multi-purpose address and search bar, stores a copy of anything typed inside of it – including backspaced or deleted text – for the purposes of its auto-complete function. Google says it plans on retaining about two percent of the data it receives through that feature – but notes that users can disable that functionality by turning off auto-complete.

"When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song." -- Sony BMG attorney Jennifer Pariser
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