The Cloud

You’re in the cloud, right?

Well, of course you are. Even if you don’t think or talk about it using platitudes, there’s some application you use that works on The Internet instead of on your own computer or network. I’ve mentioned before that you need to start taking this “cloud” thing seriously.

When I wrote that piece on taking The Cloud seriously, I pointed out that I had set up my son with an Ubuntu installation that utilized exactly two pieces of software that didn’t come as part of his new operating system. One is Evernote, for taking notes easily, and the other is Dropbox, which gives you access to all of your important files from any computer.

Both services are great. Both have many millions of users. And last week Dropbox showed they’re growing up, by issuing a revision to their terms of service that makes them sound like a great big evil land-grabbing corporate entity instead of a fun little Internet start-up.

Now let me be clear about something: Dropbox is a great service. And while there are other services that do similar things, Dropbox’s implementation of “I always have my files!” is so good that I have no intention of looking for a competitor to take over what Dropbox does for me. They’re so good that I’m not thinking in the terms I was when PayPal discontinued their money market fund. Dropbox is so good that I’m going to recommend that you use them despite their new terms of service, even if you’re new to the cloud and could pick someone else, easily.

But I’m also going to tell you that what Dropbox has done to their terms of service is wrong, and needs to be corrected.

As was the case when TwitPic wrote terms of service that essentially gave them the right to steal your copyrights and trademarks, the new Dropbox terms of service say that Dropbox can use your files any way they want to.

And unlike TwitPic, where the only rights you put in jeopardy are theoretically compensable copyrights and you-never-really-had-it-anyway privacy, Dropbox lets you store anything, so you could actually be giving away trade secrets and proprietary information if you store important files on Dropbox and they use them in the way their terms of service say they can.

Will they? No, of course not. And regardless of what their terms of service say, I’d bet money that if Dropbox ever did try to misappropriate your files you’d not only beat them in a courtroom, but put them out of business. But Dropbox’s terms of service say they have rights that I know you don’t want them to have.

And you wonder why people hire us to help navigate Intellectual Property Issues?

Dropbox needs to change their new terms of service. And as the article at ReadWriteWeb points out all they need to do to clean up this mess is include words that specify that they have the right to use your files specifically to help in providing their service to you. Presumably, that’s all they were trying to say and protect themselves against, anyway.

Makes you appreciate experience all the more, doesn’t it?

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