Wednesday, July 06, 2011

UPDATED: Dropbox changed its language, again. Will you delete your Dropbox account? I did.

UPDATE: A few minutes ago on Twitter, a rep from Edelman PR asked whether this might be an overreaction on my part (it's not clear to me whether Dropbox is a client of theirs). I took a look at Dropbox's Twitter feed and found out they've changed the terms of service, again. From the Dropbox  blog:


We asked for your feedback and we’ve been listening. As a result, we’ve clarified our language on licensing:
You retain ownership to your stuff. You are also solely responsible for your conduct, the content of your files and folders, and your communications with others while using the Services.
We sometimes need your permission to do what you ask us to do with your stuff (for example, hosting, making public, or sharing your files). By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission.


So, was I overreacting? I think not. As an author and as a communications pro, and as someone who has helped to run a federal regulatory agency, I am not scared off by legalese and I understand copyright law and how it affects my business, thank you. The TOS as written (see below) was contradictory--we need an unfettered license to do whatever, but we're only going to use it for X. Either you need it unfettered, or you don't.

Worst of all, this change came only after people complained. The post below is now one of the best-read posts on this blog, which tells me a) that Dropbox had lots of fans and b) these terms come nowhere near what they thought they were signing up for. You can see some of that in the comments, and on Twitter.  lindseyb16 shared, as a reminder, how Evernote deals with the same issue, and I think communicators have a great lesson here--a what-to-do from Evernote and a what-not-to-do from Dropbox. Lesson? Don't tell me your intent is good when your legal language suggests an opening a truck could drive through. It's a trust thing.

Here's this morning's post, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free one:

It happened over the holiday weekend, so no wonder you missed it. Joe Bonner shared this Dave Winer tweet and blog post about Dropbox's new terms of service, and after reading it and the new terms, I deleted my account, too. I'm noting it here because I was a frequent recommender of Dropbox, so I  want to correct the record. Here's the problem area:
By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission.
As an author and creator of works, that means any of my own writing or photography or other files stored in Dropbox automatically get licensed to the service for free. Um, no. I've removed my files and deleted my account (go to help and search for "delete account"). There are plenty of other file-sharing and collaboration tools, from Google Docs to Evernote and Amazon Cloud, to turn to. Interestingly, I heard about this on Twitter hours before getting an email directly from Dropbox. Will you delete your Dropbox account? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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7 comments:

Corinne said...

I heard about it on Twitter too, before I got the e-mail from Dropbox. I'm deleting my account and setting up one on SugarSync or another service.

Mark said...

I saw the email from Dropbox but frankly didn't pay attention to it until I read your post. Now, I'm outta there! Thanks!

Maryn said...

I rely hugely on DropBox so am v. distressed by this. Hoping iCloud will be a good replacement when it arrived.

Heather said...

I use dropbox for a lot, guess I will move to sugarsync and wait on iCloud. I also use evernote so will use them more.

Zanarama said...

Thanks for putting this into context. This makes me quite nervous & I am really going to consider closing my Dropbox account.

Joe Bonner said...

Denise, I read this laugh-out-loud line regarding Dropbox's change in language on a post at The Next Web this morning [emphasis mine]: "This move by Dropbox should be taken as an example by other web app companies on how to deal with user information, without restricting the ability of those companies to provide a service."

Denise Graveline said...

Love those euphemisms! "Transparency" for "we screwed up publicly" and "gathering feedback" for "our customers revolted when we sprang this on them."