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Google: Don’t let your kids use Gears

More Google Gears Terms and Conditions madness. Gears is licensed under New BSD terms; yet before you can install the runtime you have to agree to onerous terms and conditions. Here’s clause 2:

2. Accepting the Terms

2.1 In order to use Google Gears, you must first agree to the Terms. You may not use Google Gears if you do not accept the Terms.

2.2 You can accept the Terms by:

(A) clicking to accept or agree to the Terms, where this option is made available to you by Google in the user interface for any Services; or

(B) by actually using Google Gears. In this case, you understand and agree that Google will treat your use of Google Gears as acceptance of the Terms from that point onwards.

2.3 You may not use Google Gears and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google, or (b) you are a person barred from receiving the Services under the laws of the United States or other countries including the country in which you are resident or from which you use the Services.

I’m puzzled. If Gears is BSD licensed, how can Google insist that the mere act of using it binds me to these terms (which I dislike for other reasons too)? And 2.3 is bewildering: you may not use Google Gears apps if you are not an adult?

What if someone else installs Gears on your machine, and you then use a Gears-enabled app? How can terms like this possibly apply in such cases? Note that the agreement does not refer only to installing Gears, but specifically to using Gears.

By the way, you can download the source for Gears, and compile it if you can figure out how, without assenting to any such agreement.

I think Google is letting its legal team get out of hand.

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8 comments to Google: Don’t let your kids use Gears

  • …In other news Google is not just stealing the top geeks from MSFT, but now their legal staff….

  • e

    Hm, while I agree with your sentiments, it doesn’t seem to be a violation of the BSD terms to me. The BSD license is not an EULA

  • COPA (Child Online Protection Act) is a bad law, but failing to put something about not letting young folks use the service into the EULA document would leave them potentially exposed to a lawsuit: now, if someone complains that Google’s gears are storing indentifying information about their children, google can point back and say “but look! you agreed not to let your children use this…”

    High silliness, but blame congress, not google.

  • BSD license only covers distribution AFAIK

  • IANAL, but from what I recall of studying basic law, under common law jurisdictions minors are not legally obliged to adhere to contracts even if they sign them and break their terms. So.. some 16 year old could easily just click Okay and still be in the right.

  • If you go to http://code.google.com/p/google-gears/ you can download it without clickwrap and you can check out its subversion tree and everything.

  • Ravi

    Said another way, minors are considered incapable of forming enforceable contracts. Google is just saying if you can’t accept the terms of this contract (b/c you are a minor) then you can’t use Gears.

  • Tim

    Thanks for the comments.

    Chris, I know you can download the source and I mentioned in my post, though the Windows version in particular is not easy to compile currently – I hope that will change soon.

    Corey, Ravi and others: I didn’t say that Google is breaking the terms of the BSD license, though I do find the T&C silly, spooky, and perplexing in the light of the fact that you can easily and legally bypass them. Then again perhaps someone with more legal knowledge than me can explain the implications of clause 2.2(b). How can this apply if you use your own build, or one from a third party? How can it apply anyway if you have no knowledge of it? For example, you use a shared computer that happens to have Gears installed, and you happen to visit a Gears-enabled web site?

    Tim