Internet-based telephony services like Skype and Google Voice are a lifesaver for travelers, who can make reliable and inexpensive voice and video calls from almost anywhere on the planet. But who actually owns the data from these calls?
You? The person you’re phoning? Or the company that’s hosting the call?
That’s a question raised by Cleo Paskal, a fellow travel writer, after Skype changed its End User License Agreement (EULA).
Here’s the clause that worries Paskal.
3.2.4 Licence: You hereby grant to Skype a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable licence to Use the Content in any media in connection with the Skype Services.
Content: means any and all content consisting of text, sounds, pictures, photos, video and/or any type of information or communications.
What does this actually mean? Could it be, to quote Paskal, a “major rights grab”?
If I am reading this right, this seems to mean that private, sensitive correspondence via Skype could be published by Skype.
Skype could set up a service that sells sensitive information for profit and it would be legal.
If I use Skype to do a phone interview and then Skype uses the content of that interview in connection with its services, I could be sued for breach of privacy by the interviewee.
I really hope I am wrong on this. I emailed Skype. No reply. Any thoughts?
I decided to contact Skype on Paskal’s behalf (but also, because I use Skype from time to time and don’t want to see my phone conversations show up on another service). A spokesman responded:
The purpose of the wording is to allow Skype to host and manage content posted by users on its Web site (e.g., commenting on blogs, etc.).
It does not refer to conversations taking place using Skype software.
Skype’s legal team plans to further clarify this in the next version of the End User License Agreement.
I asked Skype when it planned to update the EULA. The representative said he didn’t know.
That’s good news, but I think the intent here may be less relevant than the content of the EULA, which would authorize Skype to use our phone calls and interviews any way it wanted to — if it wanted to. I’m relieved that it doesn’t want to. But what if it changed its mind?
I think this is one area where privacy regulations may need to be tightened up by the government. We should own our phone conversations, don’t you think?
Update (1 p.m.):
Skype has updated its EULA (that was fast!) —
3.2.4 Licence: You hereby grant to Skype a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable licence to: (i) reproduce, modify and publish any Content that you Use on the publicly accessible areas of the Skype Website (e.g. Skype forum, blogs) for the purpose of displaying and distributing such Content on the Skype Website for such time as You continue to Use such Content on the Skype Website; and (ii) distribute and/or display through the Skype Software any Content that You provide or make available using the Skype Software for the sole purposes of making the Skype Software and the Products available to You.
“To clarify,” a spokesman told me, “clause (ii) basically allows Skype to transmit any user generated content (e.g., a photo in a mood message) while providing Skype to its users.”
(Photo: malthe/Flickr Creative Commons)