Google Drive, on its surface, looks useful. They give me a few gigs of storage that I can access from any computer with Internet access. I could use it like a virtual USB drive.

Except I won’t. The terms of service are too problematic for me.

As an author, I would like to store projects that I’m working on, as well as notes, source materials, and that kind of stuff. That kind of use is problematic with this phrase in the terms of service:

You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours. When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

The problem is, I can’t grant those rights.

When I write something for publication on a freelance basis, the contract usually contains language that states the material has never been published or accepted for publication anywhere else. If Google takes it and distributes it prior to me signing my contract, I can’t sign the contract.

And under Fair Use, I can store excerpts of my sources for reference, such as a scan of a page from a book or a catalog, or a photograph from an online auction or forum. But if I store those items on Google Drive, Google is asking me for rights that I can’t give, since I’m not the original rights holder.

So I’d either have to remember to never store anything copyrighted by someone else on Google Drive, or just not use it at all. Because I don’t know if their “derivative works” or “publishing” means creating metadata that they can store in a database to serve more relevant ads to me, or if it means publishing pieces of it in a whitepaper showing how people are using their product. The former wouldn’t stop me from selling the work to a publisher at a later date, but the latter would.

It’s safer to just not use it, and then I don’t have to worry about any of those issues.

I do like Google products, for the most part. I have a couple of Android devices, I use a Gmail account regularly, and I use Google Maps several times a week. And I don’t mind all that much that Google does some profiling because it’s pretty rare that I have to go past the first couple of pages of search results, unless I’m searching for something really obscure.

But everyone draws a line somewhere, and Google Drive crosses the line for me.