Dropbox angered users over the weekend after appearing to lay claim to documents and other files uploaded to the service.
“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,” the company’s revised terms and conditions stated.
Dropbox was immediately forced to defend the new terms, claiming they were necessary for features such as creating public links to files and sharing folders with colleagues.
“We want to be 100 percent clear that you own what you put in your Dropbox,” the company stated on its blog.
“We don’t own your stuff. And the license you give us is really limited. It only allows us to provide the service to you. Nothing else.”
Is that enough to put users’ minds at rest? One analyst doesn’t think so.
Speaking to our sister site Cloud Pro, Clive Longbottom, founder of Quocrica, said companies that run free services believe they can tweak policies as much as they like and this could affect both consumers and business.
“Even as a consumer, I’d be worried that Dropbox is essentially saying that it ‘owns’ any documents that I drop through its service,” he said.
“As a business person, I’d be horrified – everything in those documents could be intellectual property and it belongs to me at an IP and a copyright level.”
Longbottom claimed businesses should seek protection from service level agreements (SLA), rather than fall victim to re-jigged T&Cs.
“Yes, it will mean paying for it, but managing an organisation’s IP has to be seen as a cost, not something to do along ‘best efforts’ capabilities,” he added.
“With any commercial system, you have to look at the T&Cs just as much – make sure that they cannot be altered without agreement, otherwise [the provider] will just wait until you’ve paid your subscription (preferably 20 years in advance) and then change the T&Cs to say ‘Hah – it all belongs to us!’"