Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stay away from Sony Ericsson's Online Services

Sony Ericsson does some fairly good telephones. I have one now, and I'm changing it for a new one (an Android-based Xperia) soon. I've never had reason to be displeased with their stuff.

So, as I'm changing phones I noticed that they have an online synchronization service where you can upload all your data, such as contacts, calendar data, bookmarks, personal notes and so on, and have access to it online. That seemed downright spiffy - I could upload my current data, switch phones and download to the new one. Before creating an account, I read through the terms and conditions. Good thing I did.

here they are: Terms and Conditions


If you send any communications or materials to the Site by electronic mail or otherwise, all such communications will be treated as non-confidential and non-proprietary. Sony Ericsson is free to use, without any compensation to you, any concepts, ideas, know-how, or techniques contained in any communication you send to the Site for any purpose whatsoever.

In other words: any of your data (say, your notes, or synched application data), uploaded in any way whatsoever - such as by using the synchronization service - is free for their taking. This explicitly included ideas, concepts, know-how and so on. You had better not synch your phone if you have a patentable idea or research data jotted down, as Sony-Ericsson would now own the right to use it, freely and against your will.

And lest you think this is some bit of boilerplate slipped in by accident, they repeat it, with its own subheading, further down in the document:

Ownership of Submitted Content

By posting Submitted Content, you grant Sony Ericsson a worldwide non-exclusive, assignable, fully paid, royalty-free, perpetual and irrevocable license to use, copy, publicly perform, display, distribute and modify the Submitted Content. This includes the right to prepare derivative works thereof, or incorporate the Submitted Content into other works as well as sublicense the same.

Again, if you let your data into their servers, they grab a perpetual license to use it no matter what you may think.

Now, there's no chance that this would actually hold up in any court, of course. But the attitude towards their customers that it displays is disturbing and I'm keeping well away from any of their online services. Right now I'm having second thoughts on getting a new phone from them as well.


Marko said...

Submit this to BoingBoing. They love (as in hate) this kind of stuff. And they have zillions of readers.

Jonas said...

I really have to get used to actually reading the Terms of Service - always too lazy for that. The problem is that they are so long that you get all exhausted and then miss any important non-standard conditions...

If you do actually get the Xperia, though, I'm looking forward to hear your impressions of it. Considering getting one myself.

Janne Morén said...

I already got the Xperia, actually. Online services notwithstanding, the phone itself is great. I'm going to post about it once I have a bit more experience using it, but in short my experience so far is almost entirely positive. The phone is refreshingly open (no need for tweaking to make it visible to my Ubuntu laptop, for instance), and even the SE additions - "timescape" and "mediascape" - are actually really useful, something I didn't expect.

My main complaints so far is really only that the battery didn't hold a charge for very long at first, though it seems to improve after a couple of charging cycles; and that the phone really needs a case of some sort. That line of buttons at the bottom are easy to use, but in your pocket they end up getting pushed by accident all the time, waking the phone and draining the battery.

Charles Hueter said...

Look elsewhere and you'll find most social media networks have the same terminology. I have not looked into it too deeply, but I think the essential reason is to clear away any legal objection on the part of the user against rebroadcasting his or her content without their permission. Sounds obvious, right?

Not when Sony Ericsson's servers are located thousands of miles away, across different countries, and in an entirely different legal environment from you, the user (subject to change at the will of the system administrators, too!) And certainly not when you expect to access your data anywhere on the planet as long as you have a connection. Somehow, your data must be copied, transmitted, and displayed in a variety of formats on demand. Imagine the lawsuits (frivolous, and otherwise) that their legal team is trying to cut off at the knees.

Of course, the language IS overwhelmingly broad. Here's what Yahoo! says when you click on flickr's Terms of Service:

"Yahoo! does not claim ownership of Content you submit or make available for inclusion on the Yahoo! Services. However, with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services, you grant Yahoo! the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s), as applicable:


b. With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Yahoo! Services and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo! removes such Content from the Yahoo! Services."

Hopefully Sony clarifies this elsewhere.

Always, always read the things upon which you put your word.

Janne Morén said...

Charles, you make my point. Yahoo, Google and most others do specify the purpose of this grant - to provide the service you ask for - and limit their claims accordingly. Not so with this one; they explicitly claim rights to use for any purpose, whether connected to the service or not:

"Sony Ericsson is free to use, without any compensation to you, any concepts, ideas, know-how, or techniques contained in any communication you send to the Site for any purpose whatsoever."

That's going far beyond getting the rights to provide a service. Of course, there's no way it'd be enforceable - but that also weakens the rest of the license. Even at best this is sloppy, slipshod legal work.

Again, I like the phone. But I'll stay well away from any online services of that company.

Niels said...

I've got the Xperia X10 myself and is pretty happy with it. My life doesn't depend on this pinch-zoom feature, a swipe with the thumb does it for me. The thing that gets me the most is that you need to remove the battery from X10 to change the sd card. A step back from the P990.

But so far I've elected to stay clear of SE's on-line services.
As far as licenses go, it would appear that you more or less sign away your ownership of life (or at least uploaded content ;-) ) on many sites. A shame really, since it comes across as disrespectful to me.

Kind regards, Niels.

Janne Morén said...

I don't appreciate pinch-zoom either; you need to use the phone with two hands for that. I'd be much more interested in another variation I've seen in a demo: tap-drag, where you tap, then directly drag left or right to zoom. Could do tap-drag up and down for paging too.