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12.20.09

Reader’s Article: Google’s Chrome EULA Disappoints

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, Google at 3:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Chrome logoSummary: Thoughts about Chrome from a legal perspective

ONE OF OUR readers has composed the following assessment of Chrome and what it means to the users’ freedom.

I thought it would be nice to try out Chrome for Linux but decided not to because of the binary EULA. I’d like to have a way to watch YouTube without installing Adobe’s Flash. EULAs always put a bad taste in my mouth, surely Google’s would not be so bad? Nope, like most EULAs this one is poorly worded and demands a surrender of rights contrary to many nations’ laws.

http://www.google.com/chrome/intl/en/eula_text.html

The misleading term “intellectual property” shows up many times. This neologism reduces the justification and powers of copyright, patent and trade mark law to one weak minded confusion. Powers appropriate for one set of laws are transfered to the others while the purposes are forgotten. It has no place in law, contracts or intelligent discourse. The contract also uses the insulting and disrespectful phrase “content” to describe works.

http://www.fsf.org/licensing/essays/words-to-avoid.html

The two most most shocking clauses demands recognition of software patents and surrender of fair use rights.

8.1 You acknowledge and agree that Google (or Google’s licensors) own all legal right, title and interest in and to the Services, including any intellectual property rights which subsist in the Services (whether those rights happen to be registered or not, and wherever in the world those rights may exist).

7.2 … You may not modify, rent, lease, loan, sell, distribute or create derivative works based on this Content (either in whole or in part) unless you have been specifically told that you may do so by Google or by the owners of that Content, in a separate agreement.

The source code terms are a lot better, so I have to wonder what the Google people were thinking above. The general license terms look like free software but specific portions include a confusing variety of MIT, BSD and even a deceptive license from Microsoft.

http://code.google.com/chromium/terms.html

Overall, I don’t think I’d get what I wanted, which was a dedicated, fast browser for Google services that understood flash without being obnoxious. If Chrome really is free software, people will make it work from source code and it will soon end up in repositories. I’d rather wait than sign away free use and agree that software patents are legitimate.

Speaking for myself, I avoid Chrome because I believe people need to empower Free software vendors like Mozilla and projects like GNOME and KDE. Using their Web browsers is the latest one can do.

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17 Comments

  1. Yuhong Bao said,

    December 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Gravatar

    “The source code terms are a lot better, so I have to wonder what the Google people were thinking above”
    Google isn’t the only one making this mistake, Mozilla itself made it once too, and SUSE is another example I remember being covered on BN. I nowadays use Firefox mostly, with occasional use of Chrome sometimes.

  2. Yuhong Bao said,

    December 20, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Gravatar

    “deceptive license from Microsoft”
    Looks like only WTL, which was Windows-only open source that came from Microsoft, and was part of what tied Chrome to Windows, until Sergey Brin was irritated at the lack of a Mac version. Now Chrome for Mac and Linux in beta.

    your_friend Reply:

    The Microsoft Permissive License is also included in some of the source code. Is there any Microsoft license that does not violate software freedom? The FSF opinion page on various licenses has one Microsoft Public License, which they urge people not to use because of it’s weak copyleft provisions. Notice that permissive and public share the same letters, MPL, as the Mozilla Public License. The name space collision is most likely intentional as are OOXML and many other phoney open things from Microsoft.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, Subsonica has pointed this out

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    According to Wikipedia, Microsoft Permissive License was renamed to Microsoft Public License when it was submitted to the OSI.

  3. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Gravatar

    …until Sergey Brin was irritated at the lack of a Mac version…

    I think that he still uses GNU/Linux actually.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    That claim comes from interviews with Sergey Brin I have read. I don’t think it really matters, as both are non-Windows platforms and are similar in many ways too.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I vaguely remember what he said and it was not about Apple. Unless you can find the source of course…

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    Here is one source:
    http://valleywag.gawker.com/5044780/google-cofounder-on-no-chrome-for-macs-its-embarrassing

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It seems like it’s the WSJers (Murdoch’s) who complained, not Brin.

    ‘”But you don’t have a Mac version, baby, so no,” Swisher tells him in this clip, excerpted from Swisher’s longer interview. “I know, I know, it’s embarrassing,” says Brin.’

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I should add: on another occasion I believe that Brin actually wrote (proactively) about needing Google Earth for GNU/Linux, which he appears to have used on his desktop for over a decade.

    whatever Reply:

    At Google I/O in May (I was there), he spoke a lot about Chrome and Mac. Eric uses Mac for sure — I think Sergey is 50/50 Mac/Linux. I’ve never seen him at an even using anything but a MacBook Pro unless it was specifically for a demo.

    Not that it matters, the lack of a Mac version was hugely embarrassing as much of Google HQ uses Mac. I know a lot of Google people and only a handful use anything but Mac OS X — or at the very least they use Mac hardware. Even with Pinkerton (co-creator of Camino, the first Mac-native implementation of Gecko that predated Safari and outperformed Firefox for Mac until Firefox 3 — ironically both original Camino debs now work on WebKit. Scott at Apple, Mike at Google) on the team, the Mac version had no excuse for being so slow to go beta. I mean, it’s so similar to Safari as is (the web inspector is exactly the same as web inspector in Safari, right down to the glyphs and buttons. And that’s true for all platforms), just with differet JavaScript engine a d extension support that amounts to essentially GreaseMonkey.

    As for the EULA, whatever. I mean they say don’t be evil, but it’s not like they don’t want to track every aspect of your online activity so they can better sell ads against what you use.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Well, the EULA does matter though.

    Yuhong Bao Reply:

    “Eric uses Mac for sure — I think Sergey is 50/50 Mac/Linux. ”
    And as I said, it didn’t matter which one, because it was not actually about Chrome for Mac, it was about Chrome for non-Windows platforms.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    But Schmidt was also in Apple’s board for a long time.

  4. seller_liar said,

    December 31, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Gravatar

    The google logo is very similar of freemansonry

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    I’m sure Brin and the lads never intended for this to happen back in 1998 (in a students’ garage).

    http://neatorama.cachefly.net/images/2008-02/logo-google.gif

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