Friday, December 4, 2009

Does Google Own My Blog?

Dear Rich: My girlfriend and I started a blog together and we think we have a great title and great content. If we started it on Google Blogger does Google have any rights to what we publish? Do we have to do anything to protect our content and name? The short answers are that (1) Google doesn't own the content or name of your blog (although they do control your URL); (2) you can do things to enhance your legal protection but you probably don't need to anything right away to protect your stuff.
What Does Google Get? Google's Terms of Service (Intellectual property Rights) state:

  Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Google services and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate.

The Right to Display Your Blog. You do give one thing to Google, and that's "a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying and distributing Google services." That basically means you can't sue Google for posting your blog. (Axiomatic, right?) And, in case you're not aware, Google can remove infringing or offensive content (There's more on that in the Terms of Service.)
URLs and Re-Directs. The only real estate that's owned by Google is the URL (domain name) that locates your blog -- for example, Should you decide to switch to another blog provider, you can't take that with you. That shouldn't be much of an issue and in any case, there are ways to redirect fans to a new URL -- the easiest of which is to leave your Google blog up with directions to your new home (like this).
Copyrights and Trademarks. You can federally register your blog name. The Dear Rich Staff provided information about that here. You acquire copyright automatically when you post a blog entry but you can enhance those rights by registering with the Copyright Office. Generally, that's not essential (and a little bit of work) but the rules are here.