github updates its TOS, and they are not trying to cheat

isotopp image Kristian Köhntopp -
March 9, 2017
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Every single time a big Silicon Valley company updates their Terms of Service, there is somebody who mis-interprets the change as an attempt to landgrab, or take ownership of the things being uploaded to the service.

This time it affects github.

Their new TOS has a section on User-Generated Content , which in github’s case is all the repositories, snippets and other stuff they are hosting. In order to do the stuff they are doing on their users behalf, they need a lot of legal permissions on the stuff you are sending to them.

That might seem scary, but please stop here and actually read that section linked up there. It’s one of the most clear, non-legalese TOS I have ever seen and it even explains WHY they need these rights and what they are going to use them for.

So D.4 says “You grant us and our legal successors the right to store and display your Content and make incidental copies as necessary to render the Website and provide the Service”.

Why is this?

That means you’re giving us the right to do things like reproduce your content (so we can do things like copy it to our database and make backups); display it (so we can do things like show it to you and other users); modify it (so our server can do things like parse it into a search index); distribute it (so we can do things like share it with other users); and perform it (in case your content is something like music or video).

So they ask for the necessary license to operate, and that license is non-exclusive (good), time-unlimited (necessary) and limited (for the purposes as stated (“as necessary to render the Website and provide the Service.”)

Website and Service are upcase, which means they are defined more clearly further up in document, limiting the license even more.

D.5 says “License Grant to Other Users”, and again the TOS states clearly when (“by setting your repositories to be viewed publicly”) and what and WHY again (github is about forking, that requires a license to do that from you). And again, it’s limited: If you set your repo to public, “you grant each User (upcase!) of GitHub a […] license to […]”. Again, it’s limited - the license is nonexclusive, and for a purpose (“to [… list of things …]”). This is about as clear, non-threatening, transparent and obvious any legal contract you are going to see in your life can ever get.

So, D.7 is about moral rights (that’s a term for authorship attribution rights that are part of euro-copyright as opposed to us-copyright). And it says “you waive these rights and agree not to assert them against us”, which means, you still have these rights, but you can’t sue github for doing what github is about. And you again grant a license, limited, for a purpose (“render the Website and provide the Service”).

TL;DR: GitHub is a nice company. The TOS change is fine. Calm down, and STFU until you understand basic copyright law and contractual language. Thanks.