The old Terms of Service stated: "You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services."
But that statement was followed by this sentence: "By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give 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 which you submit, post, or display on or through, the Services."
Many in the Internet community saw in those words Google being evil by asserting ownership over its users' work. Such fears would be more easily dismissed as paranoia, were it not for Google's history of testing the boundaries of copyright law. Viacom last year sued Google and YouTube for "massive copyright infringement," and content owners have long complained that Google's search empire is built atop the intellectual property of others.
Matt Cutts, head of Google's Webspam team and noted Google blogger, moved to allay concerns by posting an explanation on his blog from Rebecca Ward, the senior product counsel for Google Chrome.
Ward's note said that the terms in question were the result of legal boilerplate used across products and that Google would fix the terms as soon as possible.
Cutts acknowledged that it was clearly a mistake for Google to have included those terms. On Thursday, Google’s senior product counsel, Mike Yang, posted a similar note to reassure Chrome users.
As of Wednesday, Chrome's Terms of Service were revised to simply state that Chrome users retain all rights to content viewed or posted using the browser.
That ought to be the end of the story, but suspicions about Google's motives are bound to remain. Ironic though it may be, Google's disavowal of evil, its well-publicized philanthropy and commitment to social causes, and its user-centric design philosophy magnify every corporate misstep.
Black marks are just more easily seen against the backdrop of Google's white home page.
If you haven't seen Chrome in action yet, take a spin through our Google Chrome image gallery and have a look at the browser that's being touted as a game-changer.
This story was updated on Sept. 4 to include statements made by Google about the revised EULA.
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